Putting smiles on troops’ faces: Seymour spouse sends care packages to deployed ‘adoptees’

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Emily Mather laughs often while sharing the warm stories from some of the thousands of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines that she has adopted from the Global War on Terrorism.

"I hope God keeps blessing Emily to keep putting smiles on those soldiers' faces," said Cathy Amshoff, Emily's mother of Cincinnati, Ohio. "I'm very proud of her."

Emily does not have a title to go with her job, but what she does from base housing at Seymour Johnson is a huge undertaking. In addition to working fulltime, and being a full-time mom and wife, she managed to find time to send more than 1,000 packages to troops in the last two years.

"I have about 300 adoptees right now from all of the services," Mrs. Mather said. "It doesn't matter if you support the war, it matters that you support the men and women that are over there."

Mather began her journey by attending a vigil with her mom for Army Reserve Sgt. Keith "Matt" Maupin, who was captured April 9, 2004, the only U.S. servicemember unaccounted from Iraq until recently.

"I've always been involved in our community and Matt really touched home because our kids went to school together and our families go to church together," Ms. Amhoff said.

Ms. Amshoff manages a photo lab in Cincinnati, which has absorbed the cost of making more than 130,000 pictures of Sgt. Maupin.

"I don't want people to forget Matt," she said. "I'm glad Emily's helping even though she's not in Cincinnati."

Today both Mrs. Mather's house and truck showcase photos of Sgt. Maupin with his capture date.

It was that experience that made her decide that she wanted to do whatever she could to support our troops. She worked with support groups and Internet sites to find ways to send packages to the troops, but now she has her own resources.

At one point while still living in Ohio, Mrs. Mather appeared on a television news report with 86 boxes in her small living room. She didn't know how she was going to get them all sent.

"An anonymous donor called and gave me $500 to get the packages in the mail," she said. "He still sends me $250 each month for supplies and mailing packages."

Mrs. Mather has a closet full of supplies to use in her care packages. She said favorite items were the bug spray and Ramen noodles. She also takes request. A female from Seymour Johnson who is currently deployed asked for scented lotion so she can smell good despite the desert heat.

"Is this for us or is this for the soldiers?" Mrs. Mather's recalled her daughter saying one day when she had the house filled with packages of goodies.

"Those packages mean so much to the soldiers," Ms. Amshoff said. "I'm glad Emily's sending them. It's a little piece of home."

The best package Mrs. Mather remembers sending was to a Marine who she adopted for his year-long deployment. He was from Colorado and missed the smell of the pine trees. Mrs. Mather decided to fix that by sending him an entire branch from her Christmas tree. When his flattened fragrant package arrived, he said it was the best gift he had ever received.

"Many of them don't want the care packages, just a pen pal to send them emails and show support."

She remembers all her adoptees' birthdays, and has made some special friends along the way. One Marine she sponsored ended up coming to Camp LeJeune, N.C. When she finally met him, she gave him a huge hug and said, "Now I can really welcome you home!"

She's also received gifts from some of the people she's adopted. She has a tapestry personalized with Iraqi emblems, Iraqi money as a souvenir, a marble tea set, roses, teddy bears and camel figurines.

"I don't do it for the presents or the recognition," she said. "I do it for the gratification you get from making someone else's day."

Mrs. Mather was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award in April for all of the hours she's spent supporting the troops. Last year she calculated nearly 1700 hours, but she says it's really something she does "24-7." She was nominated by the Airmen and Family Readiness Center.

"When you first meet her, you can see she's gung-ho," said Tech. Sgt. Cindy Hartsfield, Family Readiness NCO. "Deployed men and women are close to her heart; it doesn't matter what service. She's there for everyone."

"She came over here on her own and helped with the monthly potlucks for the deployed families, making pillow cases and sitting at the front desk," Tech. Sgt. Hartsfield said.

Mrs. Mather is also a key spouse for the 4th Maintenance Squadron. Between supporting her adoptees and the Airmen that have returned here from deployments recently, she's made over 1000 cookies in the last two weeks.
When Mrs. Mather started her efforts in Ohio, she was not married to a military member. Now she will celebrate her first wedding anniversary by talking to Staff. Sgt. Mather by video teleconference.

"Supporting troops does not prepare you for your own deployment," she said. "It's hard."

She also has a brother-in-law in the Army that's deployed.

"My husband is very supportive of what I do," Mrs. Mather said. "He does what he can to help me."

"Taking her time to treat everyone over here as if they are her own brothers and sisters makes her an example of what true American dedication really is," said Staff. Sgt. Michael Mather, currently deployed to Southwest Asia. "Seeing how she brings joy to those here makes me even more proud to even know her, let alone have the privilege of being her husband."

When asked what people can do for the troops, she said "Stay strong and keep supporting your military."

Sending a package overseas is not the only way to support the military.

"If you're showing that ribbon on the back of your car, you're supporting your military," she said. "When a military person sees that ribbon, they'll be proud that person is supporting them."