As stated by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In this same vein, sometimes a life full of purpose begins with a single caring deed. For Chuck and Teri Palmer of Manteca, California, their journey began with the desire to take meaningful action following the combat death of their son Charles during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Corporal Charles O. Palmer II was your everyday sort of hero. He was the kind who knew his deepest sense of peace and purpose could only be found in service to others. After five years serving as a reservist in the Marine Corps, he called his father to say he wanted to enlist in the Marines fulltime and was not going to settle for anything less than a role at the epicenter of combat operations.
“I told him to sit on it for 30 days,” said Chuck Palmer, “make sure he was really thinking this through.”
Cpl. Palmer II wasn’t a naïve man. He knew the cost of service, saying, “Mom, I hope my wife understands I won’t be the same man as when I left.”
For someone called to service, wishing he was out there fighting beside his brothers-in-arms as soon as possible, it’s easy to imagine how long those 30 days must have felt. But wait he did. And enlist he did. And so began the daily badgering of his sergeant major, asking for combat placement until the commander finally tired of Charles’ persistence and gave him orders to report to Iraq’s Al Anbar province, a region thick within the soup of combat.
“Once he rejoined, he said, ‘I’m home and I’ve never been happier,’” says Chuck Palmer, who put aside his concerns for his son’s safety in the truest show of support a father can give.
On May 5, 2007, Corporal Palmer was killed during a security sweep when his Humvee stuck a roadside improvised explosive device. He was never assigned to the security detail, but was simply tasked with finding a replacement for a soldier injured on an earlier expedition.
For anyone who knows parents Chuck and Teri Palmer, it is clear where their son inherited his strength and courage. Within only a few short years they formed a far-reaching non-profit dedicated to caring for all sons and daughters busy in service to their country.
The Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program began with care packages sent to their son-in-law in early 2008 and grew to over 1,800 packages sent to troops stationed across the world by the end of the year. And their efforts only skyrocketed from there. Involved in everything from veteran suicide awareness to fundraising drives for family members of those lost in combat, Chuck and Teri have become a true force of support for our troops and those closest to them.
“We owe it to them to let our soldiers know they are loved and supported by the community,” said Teri Palmer.
And their reason for care packages? The joy on the soldiers’ faces in photos sent back in thanks for a little taste of home. Their biggest surprise? The way the community has come together to help rally support: raising funds, collecting goods, and coming together to package the items and see them off, including hand-written letters that soldiers say are every bit as heartening as the goods they receive.
According to Chuck and Teri, the real secret of their success in reaching so many has been collaboration. For the past three years they have been working with the American Red Cross which, thanks to programs such as Operation Care Package, “offer(s) gobs and gobs of supplies to local veteran organizations.”
According to Teri, Operation Care Package is “a very well-planned event. They knock on doors, working hard to get donations. It is clear that the Red Cross has a real desire to serve and protect. It’s an honor to be asked to part of it.”
The Cpl. Charles O. Palmer II Memorial Troop Support Program welcomes addresses for care packages for soldiers stationed anywhere in the world as well as any family members of soldiers or veterans in need of a little heartfelt giving. Their non-profit operates entirely on word of mouth.