As a freshman in high school, Danetta Bronnimann recalls hearing the word “quagmire” to describe the situation of American troops during the Vietnam War.
While bothersome, she felt there was little she could do at such a young age to help the military personnel she so greatly respected.
But by the time she heard the word used again to describe troops during the Iraq War, she decided it was time to act.
“I said, ‘I don’t care, I’m going to find a way to do something,’” she said.
Bronnimann began researching ways to help troops, and it didn’t take her long to find a program that fit: Books For Soldiers.
Initiated in 2003 by Storm Williams, the program began after Williams sent a book to his brother, who was then enlisted overseas. After finishing the book, other soldiers requested to read it, and the demand began growing so much that Williams was emptying his shelves of old college books and classics to send to the troops.
Thus emerged Books For Soldiers, a 501c non-profit organization that now donates far more than just books to overseas troops. But Bronnimann doesn’t like to refer to the program as a charity.
“I call it a ‘Thank you’ for our soldiers doing things we would all rather not do,” she said.
Bronnimann was not far behind in joining the Books For Soldiers team after its establishment about a decade ago. Now the website administrator, Bronnimann says all her hard work – which is entirely unpaid – has been more than worth it.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” she said. “These young soldiers are incredible, and we are lucky to have them. This really affirms to our troops that they have support back home from complete strangers. It is so much more satisfying that just writing check. This is hands-on support.”
Books For Soldiers is responsible for sending approximately 8,000 care packages since 2008.
Care packages consist of CDs, DVDs, deodorant, socks, razors, books, and more.
Overseas soldiers can put in their own requests on the Book For Soldiers website (www.booksforsoldiers.com), though often times, requests are made on behalf of others.
“If a commander or postal worker sees that a soldier is not getting a lot of mail, often times they will put in a request for them,” said Bronnimann, a former medical doctor who was forced into retirement due to illness about eight years ago.
During that illness – which was severe enough to lead to dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant, Bronnimann found refuge in writing to soldiers to let them know they were not forgotten.
“It helped get my mind off my own problems,” said Bronnimann, who is now in excellent health.
All money raised through donations goes toward supplies and website expenses. All volunteers in the program are unpaid. To learn more about the program, or to donate, visit www.booksforsoldiers.com.
All monetary donations are tax deductible.