A cardboard box and a blue plastic bin that sit at the Thurston home at 18 Fireside Drive in Barrington continue to fill with snacks, toiletries, and other everyday items. A couple of checks have come in as well.
The items will soon be packaged and sent to Army medic Zachery “Zach” Silva, whose family lives within eyesight of the Thurston home, and his Army unit in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think people realize that our kids are getting shot at every day,” said Todd Thurston, who decided that he, his family and his neighbors should honor Zach and his fellow soldiers for their sacrifices.
Zach, 23, was wounded a couple of months ago when an Afghan national stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device) while leading the unit on patrol. Five soldiers were severely wounded and some of them lost limbs from the explosion and the ensuing firefight, said Ron Silva, Zach’s father.
Zach suffered burns from the metal shrapnel that pierced his back, said his father. Zach will get the Purple Heart for his injuries, Silva said.
“He also is being considered for a Silver Star because he saved numerous lives that day,” Thurston said.
Indeed, said Ron Silva, an Army representative from the Pentagon told him that “Zach saved a lot of lives that day.”
“He was the only medic there,” Silva said. “He kept treating soldiers during the firefight, which lasted 60 to 90 minutes, and he was instructing others to stabilize the wounded, even as bullets flew around him. He picked up one guy on his shoulders and carried him to a medi-vac chopper.”
“I’m not surprised, though, that’s him,” said Silva of his son, who spent about a month in the hospital for his wounds. “We’re so proud of him.”
Zach was home a couple of weeks ago during a leave fron his one-year deployment. He went right back to his unit in Afghanistan and is there now, said Silva.
“He said while he was home that he feels like he doesn’t deserve the Silver Star,” said Silva. “He said it should go to the guys who were wounded.”
It was soon after Zach went back that Thurston had a conversation with Ron Silva. He decided to start collecting items the soldiers often go without.
“Most are everyday items that we just take for granted but are not available to our servicemen,” he said.
Thurston and his children, Max, 12, Owen, 10, and Molly, 3, went door to door in his neighborhood to inform them of his effort. They were seen pulling a wagon to distribute the leaflet and pick up any donated items.
“Please help us and honor not only Zach but all of our service people this Fourth of July by donating food, toiletries, etc. to Zach so he can use and share with his unit,” Thurston said in his leaflet.
The checks will go straight to Zach to help pay for college. That’s why he enlisted, said his father. He was in college at the time, and racking up a lot of debt that the military will help him pay off.
Thurston plans to leave the boxes outside his home until next Friday, July 13. Just stop by and drop things off. Thurston, his wife, Maureen, and their children will do the rest.
“I just can’t believe he’s doing this,” said Silva of Thurston. “When he told me he was going to do this, I just broke down and balled my eyes out.”
Suggested food items to drop off are coffee, nuts, soups, chili, protein bars, candy and gum, drink mixes, dried fruit and tuna in cans or pouches.
Among the suggested toiletries are foot or baby powder, deodorant, band aids, creams, tissues, nasal spray, toothpaste, combs, brushes, body wash, sun block, and vitamins.
The soldiers can also use socks, mouse traps, cards and letters, batteries, CDs, DVDs, pens and pencils, disposable cameras, phone cards, insect repellant, and playing cards.
Plastic containers only, no glass. And no spray cans.