Francesca McCarthy & Comics For Soldiers
My Cousin, Matt
Comics for Soldiers was created in memory of my cousin, Matt McDowell who was killed on April 1, 2007 in Baghdad when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. He was a proud member of the Army, having completed nearly 10 years of service. Matt served his country in the U.S., Bosnia, Germany and Iraq. My family used to call him the Texas Tornado, and it hit everyone pretty hard when he was killed. My goal is to create an organization that Matt would have been proud of.
My name is Francesca McCarthy and I am 23 years old. I am a graduate of Holy Cross College and am now attending graduate school at Indiana State University. My favorite comic book character is She-Hulk. I love reading about Jennifer Walters and her green alter ego (I can also relate to that temper!). I love the Walking Dead comics and have read every single issue, probably like three times! I created the Comics for Soldiers organization in April of 2015, but had been supporting soldiers through care packages since July 2014. My good friend from college, Lt. Allen Jozwiak, was stationed in South Korea so I sent him packages every month. I saw how much he enjoyed them and lifted his morale so I then got an address for a soldier in Afghanistan and started sending him boxes. We emailed every day and talked about how much we liked reading comic books and who our favorite characters were. This is what sparked my idea to begin Comics for Soldiers. I saw that the books and comics I sent him helped to take his mind off of all the stressful and dangerous situations he was in while serving our country. I wanted to help others soldiers like him to find some peace and to know that there were people stateside who cared about them.
I run the organization by myself, but with lots of help from my mom. Before I started getting donations, I had to pay for everything on my own. I don’t even know how many comics she has bought, and she usually pays to ship a couple of boxes each time. None of this would be possible without her. Now that I am in school, I don’t have as much money to spend. Thankfully, more donations have been coming in as we are becoming better known. I typically send the medium flat rate boxes from the post office. These cost $12 each. I do occasionally send the large boxes if it is going to a big unit. I try to send four a week, but it all depends on how many comic books I have at the time and if I have the money for the shipping. I started out getting addresses from a great site called anysoldier.com, but now that more soldiers are hearing about us I am getting addresses from soldiers who email me directly. I also like to reach out to people and invite them to give me the address of a family member or friend who they think would like a box.
The boxes always include comic books (usually 30-35 or more depending on the size of the unit), but there are always other items included. Depending on what my donation stockpile is like at the time, they often include snacks, books, hygiene items, and games. I write a handwritten letter and make a card for every box I send out. I want them to have a personal touch and for the soldier/s to know that I put care into each package. Soldiers can also email me with requests and we are adding a section to the website where they will be able to make requests there, too.
I typically go to comic book shops and buy from their dollar sections. I like to send them sequential runs or full sets so they are able to follow the storyline. I try to buy comics from all genres not just superheroes. Some soldiers send requests for certain comics so I also try to make sure they get those. Lately, I have been getting lots of requests for issues of The Punisher.
I am mostly hoping to grow my organization and receive enough donations to be able to send even more boxes each week. I would also like to try to partner with comic book shops or even publishers to get higher quality comics to soldiers. Most of the stuff I send out is older (because they are cheaper) but I’d like to eventually be able to send them the latest issues. I hope all of you reading this take the time to consider making a donation and helping the brave men and women who are serving our country forget the struggles they are facing while fighting for our freedom.
Photos courtesy of Francesca McCarthy