Inasmuch as U.S. troops relish getting a package of toothpaste or protein-packed energy bars, it’s the life-saving equipment that’s in short supply that they want most.
In the two years since it was founded, TroopsDirect, an Oakland, Calif., based nonprofit, has sent 27,000 pounds of supplies to servicemen and servicewomen and is able to ship the items faster than the military, according to Fox News. But what troops have been asking for most has nothing to do with missing the comforts of home. They want powdered chalk to mark improvised explosive devices, a precaution that can save lives and limbs.
“IEDs are the biggest killer and wounder of American forces,” Aaron Negherbon, founder of TroopsDirect, told the news outlet. “We cannot fill the request fast enough for this specific item.”
The number of roadside bomb attacks against dismounted troops have surged in the past three years, causing servicemen and servicewomen to suffer devastating injuries, including leg amputations and genital dysfunction. Just five troops in April 2009 were injured by IEDs, but that figure went up to 210 in April 2010 and increased to 376 in April of last year, according to the Pentagon's counter-IED agency, the Joint IED Defeat Organization.
While TroopsDirect makes sure to provide hydrating drinking water, sunscreen, body wash and other “luxuries” to troops, it’s the organization’s ability to bring battlefield supplies that makes it different from other care-package-providing nonprofits.
One typical request Negherbon once got was from a Marine sergeant in Afghanistan whose supply truck had been blown up, destroying all the gear for nine medics, according to the L.A. Times. The crew needed surgical kits, gauze, equipment for cutting into tracheas, among other critical items and the nonprofit was able to collect, ship and get the supplies into the troops’ hands within 10 days.
"That's what we do," he told the news outlet.
The president and founder came up with the idea for the organization after sending a 45-pound care package to a greatly appreciative friend serving in the Marines in Afghanistan, NBC reports. Negherbon realized then that troops needed so much more and decided to quit his job, establish the nonprofit and make the initiative his full time commitment.
“When we are told an item we sent over saved a life or saved limbs,” Negherbon told NBC, “ I mean God, that’s the best thing in the world.”
Click through the slideshow below to see photos of Tyler Southern, a Marine corps corporal who lost both legs and his right arm to an IED blast while serving in Afghanistan.