PHILADELPHIA, PA, UNITED STATES
Story by Nancy Benecki
Defense Logistics Agency
With the upcoming Easter and Passover holidays, the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support is providing special meals and religious items to give some much needed comfort to servicemen and women deployed overseas, during these unprecedented times.
Religious holiday items were sent around the globe without delays caused by the coronavirus, said Christopher Gaudio, a customer account specialist from the Clothing and Textiles supply chain and team leader for the religious support program. Holiday food was also sent without complications.
The Subsistence supply chain sent nearly 90,000 pounds of food for the respective holiday meals, according to Robin Whaley, branch chief for customer relations in the Europe and Central Command regions. These deliveries included more than 20,000 pounds of pork, 25,000 pounds of salmon, 18,400 pounds of shrimp and 25,000 pounds of ham in addition to pies, cakes and candy.
Subsistence also sent 200 cases of Kosher for Passover Meals, Ready to Eat, with 12 meal bags in each case, including chicken, beef, and gefilte fish menus, according to Joseph Zanolle, a customer account specialist with the supply chain. There were no complications in shipping the food because of the coronavirus, he said.
Most orders for religious items were shipped by March 30, Gaudio said, for delivery by Easter on April 12, and the Passover holiday from April 8 to 16. Two orders for palms heading to Europe were slightly delayed due to issues stemming from coronavirus shipping complications, he said. Those orders were shipped out of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey on March 31 along with medical supplies.
Getting all the religious items, including Seder kits, ashes, wine and grape juice in addition to the palms, was “a big feat for this time of crisis,” Gaudio said.
“We all have a mission to do, so we made sure we were on top of things this year,” he said. As of March 31, all items were delivered.
Troop Support worked with DLA Distribution to ensure that the 159 orders of religious items were shipped to customers to locations including the Middle East and Europe, he said.
“We were prepared for more delays, but everything seemed to go without a hitch this year, besides a couple issues, but that seems to be taking care of itself,” Gaudio said. About 72,000 customers around the globe were notified about Easter and Passover orders in December 2019 via an email blast with information about deadlines and prices, Gaudio said.
In light of the changes caused by COVID-19, the way service men and women observe holidays will be a little different this year, Gaudio said.
“Normally, you’d observe a holiday as a group in a chapel and listen to a sermon,” he said. “This year, you’re going to do it virtually, or a chaplain will pass out palms and say prayers individually.”
Those using Seder kits will be in their own home or facility and observe by themselves as well, he said.
“It means a lot for them to be home and observe the holiday, even if it is ultimately by themselves,” Gaudio said. “They’re turning to their faith to get them through these times. Who knows what that person is going through or where they’re at? It puts a warm and fuzzy feeling back into their soul so they can celebrate, no matter what their religion is, no matter where they are in the world.”
In a word, it all comes down to gratitude.
“We’ve gotten many ‘thank yous’ from many customers, getting this to them in a time of crisis when we didn’t think it was actually going to show up,” Gaudio said.
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