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Afghanistan-bound soldier supplied by Beth Abe

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Later this month, when Fernando Gonzalez rejoins the 69th Infantry Regiment, security forces may search his bag.

For batteries, scarves, Bibles and beef jerky.

Fanny Gonzalez and the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services are sending her husband back to Afghanistan with four bulky gift boxes. The Gonzalezes live in the Bronx.

Gonzalez, office coordinator for Beth Abraham’s Comprehensive Care Management program, asked co-workers and patients for support this summer. Emails went out; the program raised $250 for the New York State National Guard Fighting 69th in less than an hour.

Fernando Gonzalez, on leave for two weeks, accepted the gift boxes Thursday, November 13, and presented CCM with an American flag.

“It was the flag we flew over our base in Afghanistan on June 14, for the Army’s birthday,” Fernando Gonzalez said. “We flew it for 24 hours.”

It was an emotional moment for the Gonzalezes. Fernando, a former CCM employee and NYC police officer, hadn’t been home since January.

He’ll hang a banner – “Beth Abraham Family of Health Services salutes the Fighting 69th” – in Gardez, Afghanistan until the regiment leaves.

“Today’s ceremony was nice,” Fernando said. “A lot of photos and a lot of tears.”

Determined to help her husband’s regiment, Fanny Gonzalez distributed a pack/no-pack list around CCM. She’s an experienced army booster. Fernando Gonzalez served in Iraq four years ago.

“Fanny always sends me what I need,” Fernando said.

He said his fellow soldiers are anxious for the boxes to arrive.

“We’ll open them up and everyone will take what they need,” he said. “When I was in Iraq, CCM sent me photos of my family. The program has been a huge backbone for my family and myself.”

In addition to cold-weather wear and goodies, the Fighting 69th will receive 60 thank you letters. Fernando Gonzalez won’t actually fly the boxes to Afghanistan. His wife plans to send them ahead.

“We’re grateful for what our soldiers do,” Connie Tejeda with CCM said. “One of Beth Abraham’s core values is caring – for everyone. It was unbelievable how quickly people here responded.”

There are CCM patients with family members deployed to overseas, or deploying soon. Tejeda’s brother in law fought in Iraq.

Fernando Gonzalez will take 92 days of leave when his current tour ends. He may re-sign with the NYPD.

Until then? Batteries, bibles and beef jerky.

“Anybody can do this,” Fanny said. “Especially with Christmas coming. Just visit www.give2thetroops.com.”

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CNG: Community Newspaper Group