Troopathon 7: Packages of Hope

On Wednesday, June 25, an extraordinary event of caring and courage will take place to honor America’s bravest… our military.

The seventh annual Troopathon will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library from 1pm to 8pm Pacific time and the goal this year is to send the most amount of care packages ever to our men and women on the front lines. This incredible organization has already raised more than 4.5 million dollars in care packages and sent over 315 tons of gifts to our troops.  Many celebrities and also TV and radio hosts, like myself, will again be a part of this year’s live broadcast on Troopathon.org and Sirius XM Patriot Radio, Channel 125.

I hope you will tune in and help in any way you can, as I know firsthand how important these care packages are to our soldiers. For me, this mission is deeply personal.

When my own father, then Polish Resistance fighter Ryszard Kossobudzki, was a starving POW in a Nazi camp in Muhlberg, Germany, there were few things that resembled signs of hope. Each day, their rations became smaller and smaller, as they were lucky if they got a frozen dirty turnip in a bucket of water, masquerading as soup.  A loaf of bread was shared between everyone in the barracks, and the man assigned to cut the slices would get the smallest one if he didn’t distribute the slices equally after each one was methodically weighed on a small scale. Incredibly, my father was one of the more healthy guys, weighing 90 pounds and standing six feet tall.

One day in these times of sheer desperation, a truck suddenly pulled up outside the barbed wire. It was a white Red Cross truck, and it would contain generic packages for the POWs, often the only way they knew the world had not forgotten about them in their darkest hours. My father told me how hundreds, sometimes thousands of the POWs, would line up near the fence, waiting hours as they unloaded the vehicles. He said, “We would cheer after each package came off the trucks. Those were definitely some of the happiest moments in the camp. These packages contained crackers, chocolate bars, cigarettes, and coffee, and we shared one parcel among several prisoners.” He said, “The charity of the Red Cross saved my life more than once.”

At one point, a bunch of new American POWs were marched into Stalag 4b. They had all fought in the Battle of the Bulge and looked emaciated and run down. My dad and his comrades knew the US was trying to save them, so they wanted to thank these now fellow POWs the best way they could.  “We sent them some cigarettes and a few cans of food from our most recent care parcel. We hoped it would cheer them up a little bit.”

To this day, my eyes fill with tears as I think about that incredible gesture and the role those packages played in my father’s life. For starving POWs to give up food and other items to say thank you, is truly an overwhelming moment.

The Americans paid my father back in spades, as soon after he escaped from the camp, ironically a chocolate bar wrapped with a note dropped by an American pilot, informed him and his skeletal comrades, he “had 15 miles to walk and you are free.”

Today, with US troops stationed in many remote parts of the world, including some 30,000 combat troops still in Afghanistan, I realize how much these Troopathon care packages truly mean. As a TV journalist, I have been to these desolate areas of Afghanistan, and saw the tears of joy when they received parcels from strangers often with notes saying, “You are not forgotten, America loves you and is proud of you and all you have sacrificed.” At a time when there is so much concern about troop locations and also hospital care after they return, this year’s Troopathon is more important than ever.  

After my father got that pilot’s note and walked 15 miles, he came to a riverbed, and on the other side was the most inspiring and beautiful sight he’d ever seen. Young American GIs flooding him with gifts from packages they had received, and telling him his long nightmare was over.  He was finally free.

For more details on Troopathon, please go to Troopathon.org.


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