Vickroy: By helping troops, teen gets to help old friend
By Donna Vickroy firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @dvickroy July 31, 2013 6:20PM
Jacob Jung, of Tinley Park, collected thousands of personal care and snack items for the troops at Camp Clark in Afghanistan. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2013 6:58AM
The good news: American troops will begin withdrawing from Camp Clark in Afghanistan in 2014.
The bad news: As the base prepares for that withdrawal, the store where soldiers bought essentials, called the post exchange, already has closed.
Among those affected by the loss of everyday items, including soap, razors and snacks, is Capt. Christopher Doering, an Army chaplain who served at St. George Church in Tinley Park.
Though he left Tinley Park to work at Our Lady of Victory Church in Chicago in 2004, many of the Southland faithful have kept up with his whereabouts, particularly after he decided to join the military in 2010.
Doering is serving his second tour of duty in the Khowost Province of Afghanistan with the 61st Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat team, 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
Before he left, he wrote a passage for the church bulletin detailing some of the hardships of life on the front lines and inviting parishioners to send needed supplies to the 400 soldiers still serving at the base.
When Jacob Jung read that article, the 15-year-old decided to do something.
The Tinley Park teen, whose family attends St. George, contacted Doering, who goes by the nickname Padre Chris, and offered to make supply collecting the goal of his Eagle Scout project.
Jacob is a Boy Scout with Troop 911, sponsored by the Tinley Park Police Department and American Legion Post 615.
With Doering’s blessing and a list of needed supplies, Jacob began collecting on June 30. In less than a month’s time, he had amassed thousands of items.
“We’ve exceeded our expectations for sure,” Jacob said, standing in his garage Sunday where 81 boxes of candies, nuts, toothbrushes and boxes of baby wipes were packed up and ready for shipping.
Thanks to the generosity of local businesses and people across the Southland, Jacob, a sophomore at Lincoln-Way North High School, collected more than 6,500 items.
“Everyone I asked wanted to help,” he said.
Donations of soap, body washes, drink mixes and skin cream flowed in from American Bagel in Orland Park, Fox College in Bedford Park and, of course, St. George Church — even the bingo ladies kicked in. When Jacob solicited at the Tinley Park Walgreens where his mom works, customers filled his collection box.
“Everyone was so generous,” he said. “One grandma filled out 100 Customs forms for me.”
UTI Freight Forward offered to pack and ship nearly half of the collection. The rest will be sent via the U.S. Postal Service, with shipping paid for with cash donations.
“I can’t wait for them to open the boxes, especially the Keurig,” Jacob said. “Allegedly, that’s like gold out there.”
Jacob and his mom took advantage of a coupon and sale at Kohl’s to buy 16 boxes of the individual packs of coffee.
Janeen Jung said the project started out small and quickly took on wings. “It is just amazing,” she said.
She mentioned it during a planning meeting for an upcoming reunion of Lourdes High School graduates and the attendees offered to help.
“I was inspired by Father Chris,” Jacob said. “He came to St. George when I was a preschooler as a new priest and was there for about four years.
“He was not your ordinary priest. He is a cool guy who not only wanted to serve God but his country, too,” Jacob said.
Doering, 40, was a popular priest during his tenure at St. George, often striking a chord with congregants through relevant sermons and chit chat about the Bears and his beloved White Sox. The fact that he played guitar and rode a motorcycle only seemed to make him more likable.
I interviewed Doering last year, after he returned from his first tour of duty in Kandahar.
He had surprised parishioners one Sunday morning by helping St. George pastor, the Rev. Ken Fleck, officiate a special Mass at the church.
Afterward, he said that serving in the military had been a lifelong dream. A few years ago he realized the clock was ticking, so he went on a diet and enlisted.
At the time, he was one of just 10 military chaplains from the Archdiocese of Chicago serving.
For Jacob, the collection is a double blessing.
Not only does he fulfill his Eagle Scout project requirements, he gets to help a friend in the process.
“I just can’t wait till he sees all of this,” Jacob said.
Note: While Jacob’s collection is now closed, supplies still can be sent to Capt. Chris Doering’s mailing address: CH Chris Doering, 1-61 CAV, Camp Clark, APO AE 09314