Video launches military support project

During the time he was deployed to Iraq, retired Army Sgt. Richard Bell talked about knowing when he was about to open a letter from his wife. He could tell by the perfume that permeated the envelope.

A Marine recruiter in the Portsmouth area, Sgt. Randy Bailey said, even in his boot camp days, letters from home were important. Bailey said if a soldier received no letters but saw others opening letters, it was very disappointing.

A Navy vet, Chris Boland spent about 10 years on board various submarines anchored at ports stretching from Connecticut to Guam. Especially considering the closed-in atmosphere aboard a sub, Boland said any packages or letters from home were welcome. He added service people often have very little contact with the outside world, connecting only with the military personnel around them.

Bell, Bailey and several other vets — and one future vet — took part Thursday in filming a video at Sonora Mexican Grill in Portsmouth. The brainchild of Portsmouth Daily Times advertising representative and military vet Mike Bell (no relation to Richard Bell, though they refer to each other as “the brother from another mother”), the video supports an effort to put together care packages to send to active military around the world. In connection with that effort, planners are inviting supporters to wear bright red shirts on Fridays.

On sale at Sonora with proceeds supporting the care package effort, the shirts declare “on Fridays we wear RED.” In this instance, “RED” is an acronym for “remember everyone deployed.” The back of the shirts read in all caps “I stand behind all those who serve our country,” and invite the public to “support Red Fridays until they all come home.”

“We appreciate all of you for all that you do,” said Tonya Miranda, co-owner of Sonora with husband Martin. Tonya Miranda was referring, of course, to members of the military, and talked briefly about the sacrifices they make for our freedom.

“This is our way to give back,” she said, “our way of saying ‘thank you’.”

Portsmouth. area businesses who might want to get involved are encouraged to call the restaurant. On March 19-20, Sonora visitors are invited to help gather collected items into gift boxes. Organizers also are asking supporters to write letters to put inside the gift boxes or care packages.

Those interested in helping can find a list of needed items at the restaurant. Sought-after food items include energy bars and granola bars, as well as various snack foods such as pretzels, cookies and toaster pastries. The list of desired items also includes categories such as “squeaky clean” — shampoos and conditioners, toothpaste and toothbrushes, deodorant, nail clippers and so on. Another category is called “games” — hackey sacks, Frisbees, playing cards, board games and model toys sets. Clothing such as socks, gloves, sunglasses and underwear are also welcome.

One item listed under “toiletries” especially caught the attention of Richard Bell. He said that during his time in Iraq, baby wipes were a godsend.

“That was the only kind of a shower I had for nine months,” Bell explained.

Those interested in helping can visit the Sonora Facebook page, view the video and find other information. Go to

Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931