A man who has been deployed overseas before, U.S. National Guard Corporal Mark Gagne understands what a care package from back home can mean. Which is why he elected to take part in Chick-fil-A's Support Our Troops Fundraiser for Operation Sandbox.
"This is really a worthy cause," Gagne, 49, said. "We'd like to see more people come out. I haven't personally been in combat, but most everybody in my company has and they really enjoyed the cards and packages last year, especially around the holidays."
The Saturday event was a first for Chick-fil-A, but would not be the last, said Virginia Pearson, the head of Operation Sandbox.
During the fundraiser, cards and food items for gift baskets were donated including Slim Jims, chewing gum, pudding, Gatorade singles, trail mix and granola bars. So far this year, Operation Sandbox has collected more than 30,000 cards for soldiers overseas.
Gagne said Pearson and Operation Sandbox had sort of adopted his company, Bravo Company, many of whom have been or are deployed overseas.
For the past three years, Gagne has served in the National Guard and, in 2009, he will be deployed to Afghanistan. Before joining the National Guard, Gagne served for nine years in the U.S. Navy.
Gagne was deployed to Europe while with the Navy, but never saw any combat. He said Italy was his favorite place he visited while overseas. Gagne said he enlisted so he could see the world and because he would receive money for his education through the GI Bill.
Originally from Boston, Gagne and his family moved to Newton County after finding Christ.
"We got saved and decided to start a new life," Gagne said.
Along with his work with the National Guard at the Covington Armory, Gagne also works with the Department of Defense in Atlanta.
Gagne, a father of five, said he reentered the military after the attacks on Sept. 11 because he felt like he had to do his part in the war on terror.
When he is deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, Gagne said he would be an infantry solider and would most likely see combat. All Guard members are required to serve overseas, Gagne said.