Staff Sgt. Lyle Treend served in the U.S. Army as part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His time spent fighting for his country overseas was difficult.

But one thing that made it a bit easier for Treend and the other soldiers was receiving care packages from back home.

“’Mail call’ was one of the most important parts of the day. It was our connection to home and normality, and a brief mental getaway from the environment we lived in,” he said. “The feeling of isolation and the thought of being forgotten by those we left behind was common. Life didn’t stop stateside, but stood still for us in the unforgiving sands of Iraq and Kuwait.”

Treend is now back home and a manager at Southern California Edison (SCE). He recently joined co-workers to prepare packages in partnership with Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends more than 150,000 packages each year to troops and veterans.

Valor, an SCE employee resource group made up largely of veterans, is hosting multiple donation days throughout SCE’s facilities over the next few months. The filled boxes and thank you cards will be mailed on July 4.

Treend remembers how days spent waiting for care packages to arrive would instead feel like months. When the packages finally arrived, crowds would gather.

“One of my soldiers received a box once every two weeks, getting everything from the latest CDs, magazines, food, toiletries, pictures and bills,” he said. “Unfortunately, some soldiers never personally received one. They sat on their cots in the back, but leftovers always made their way into their hands”

Books, magazines, coffee, candy, cookies, Kool-Aid, seeds and every snack imaginable were a welcome glimpse of home and appreciated by the troops.

One package Treend’s unit received is still unforgettable. It came from Westwood Elementary School in Greenwood, Indiana, a school that had no direct connection to the troops.

The boxes were filled with third-grade drawings and hand-written letters for each soldier. The crayon and marker sketches of soldiers, flags, tanks and camels filled the backs of the notes.

“In their best handwriting, we read their throat-tightening words of inspiration. Their words weighed heavy on our hearts. ‘Come back safe,’ ‘God bless the USA,’ ‘You are my hero,’ ‘I am proud to be an American,’” said Treend. “We hung their drawings throughout our tents and always wrote back thanking them for our souvenirs.”

Some SCE employees recently gathered on a Saturday to make donations and write words of thanks to the soldiers currently serving overseas. These cards will be placed in the various packages currently being prepared.

The Valor team is handling the details so employees can bring in donations or attend an event and take pride in knowing they’re lifting someone’s spirits.

“I’m neither brave nor strong, and I didn’t have the courage to enlist,” said Wendy Jao, SCE project analyst and Valor donation event organizer. “However, I owe everything to these men and women who give, or have given, so much to ensure that my freedoms are protected.

“Sending a small care package filled with appreciation and goodies is the least that I can do.”