NORMAN — Jordan Eshbaugh, 14, remembers her father as a fun-loving man who enjoyed grilling, watching football and playing pranks on people. She also remembers him as a man devoted to serving his country in the U.S. Air Force and later the National Guard.
“The military was his life,” she said.
Sgt. Daniel Eshbaugh was killed five years ago in a helicopter crash while on active duty in Afghanistan. While he was deployed, Jordan and her mother, Rachel Eshbaugh, regularly sent him care packages.
Now, Jordan is honoring her father's memory by doing the same thing for the other members of the 45th Infantry's C Company 2-149 unit in which her father served.
The Whittier Middle School eighth-grader organized Jordan's Care Packages, a drive to collect items to send to the 45th Infantry serving in Afghanistan. Beef-flavored Ramen noodles and Propel drink mixes were especially requested. She also collected items ranging from bags of chips to personal care items and stationery.
Donated items were taken to the Whittier Middle School parking lot on Friday and loaded into a U-Haul trailer. Jordan and classmate Allee Alonzo, 14, and Jordan's mother were on site to collect and load the donated items as they arrived.
“I'm very proud of Jordan,” Rachel Eshbaugh said. “She's amazing, and she's determined to get this done. We had talked about picking one person, but Jordan had the idea of sending care packages to all the men.”
Monya Wells was one of the first to arrive, with bags of snack cakes and other food items. She and two co-workers and a friend heard about Jordan's Care Packages through Facebook.
“I've known Jordan for about four or five years,” said Wells, a nurse at Norman Pediatrics. “I think it's a great thing that she's doing. It's a great family, and we just wanted to support the troops.”
After collecting all the items, Jordan and her mother plan to box them into 38 separate packages, one for each member of the company. She hopes to continue making care packages for the 45th in the future, with help from her mother and the Norman community.
“Another part of our unit will be deploying in the next few months, and Jordan wants to send packages to them,” Rachel Eshbaugh said. “My husband's best friend will be going then, too.”
So far, Jordan said, the community has been supportive of Jordan's Care Packages, especially her teachers and classmates. For her, the most important thing is reaching out to the soldiers to make them feel like they're more at home.
“I remember sending my dad stuff like this,” Jordan said. “He was my inspiration. I think he would be happy that I'm doing this for the people in his troop.”