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Kathleen Drews knows life can be tough for veterans.

Her brother, Michael McKinley, was 25 years old when he was electrocuted in an accident aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. Although not expected to live, he survived, but has a severe brain injury and short-term memory loss.

Now 57 years old, he’s in a wheelchair in an assisted living facility.

Drews has a heart for veterans and knows their funds can be limited.

That’s one reason why she’s pleased about the Socks 4 Troops and Veterans program.

Drews is manager of the Shoe Sensation, Inc., store at Fremont Mall.

Shoe Sensation is a regional chain of family shoe stores that sponsors the program.

And from now through Dec. 31, the stores are collecting socks for active duty military or local veterans in and around the community.

Shoe Sensation stores like the one in Fremont have military approved socks. Customers can receive 20 percent off the donated socks. The socks sell for various prices.

Customers also will be able to bring new socks into the store to be donated.

“Socks are something we take for granted as most of us have nice, clean socks every day to put on,” said Angela Smith, area director, in a news release. “The holidays are quickly approaching and it’s important for us to think about the thousands of U.S. military men and women deployed overseas in harsh, war-ravaged places, and most likely spending the holidays away from their family.

“I’m honored to be part of a company that gives back to the community,” Smith added.

This marks the third year the Fremont store has participated in the program.

The store has the green Uniform Jefferies socks approved by the military, along with white socks that can be used for athletics and black socks that can be used for dress military occasions.

It also has the warm Fireside socks that can be given to homeless veterans or to those living in a veterans’ home.

“It’s a worthwhile program,” said Stan Vyhlidal, past commander of American Legion Post 20. “It’s an honor to recognize these veterans in a small way. It’s a small donation.”

Vyhlidal said socks have been donated to the U.S. Army Reserve base in Fremont. A couple of years ago, socks went to some homeless veterans in Omaha.

Last year, Vyhlidal said he gave some socks to Life House (formerly known as Care Corps Family Services) because they were helping veterans.

“I gave them some of the non-military socks,” Vyhlidal said. “If they’re white socks that don’t have any brand name on them, the military can use them for athletics, but they have to not be marked.”

Non-military socks can be given to veterans in various facilities or homeless veterans.

Vyhlidal also said if he gets a lot of socks, he’ll work with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars or Disabled American Veterans organizations to distribute them.

In 2017, the local store also received donations of children’s socks, which Vyhlidal took to the Army Reserve base in Fremont for children of deployed military personnel.

Mark Schneck, veterans service officer for Dodge County, commends sock-donating efforts by the public.

“All service members receive an initial uniform, however, the uniform allowance — as years go by — is not intended to compensate for the entire clothing requirement,” Schneck said. “The military would replace some damaged items like steel-toed boots, but underwear and socks are more consumable and on service members’ responsibility to replace.”

Drews hopes the public will donate socks, noting that many veterans are on a limited income.

“It’s about giving to those who need it,” Drews said.

And it’s about giving to people who are or who have served this country.

“We appreciate their services and sacrifices,” Drews said.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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