ROCK HILL — Eight-year-old Mikey Kimbrell and his brother, Ricky, 9, sprawled out on the concrete floor of the Rock Hill Armory on Saturday to build a track for their Hot Wheels cars out of extra cardboard boxes.
Their dad, Sgt. Brad Kimbrell, is on his third overseas tour with soldiers from Rock Hills 178th Combat Engineer Battalion.
Their mom, Cynthia, was one of the family members of service men and women at the armory this weekend assembling the care packages to send to the local troops in Afghanistan.
The adults unpacked shampoo, razors, snacks and books from boxes and a group of about 10 kids promptly grabbed the empty containers and ripped them apart to piece together a makeshift race track.
Ricky, Mikey and their younger brother Danny love NASCAR mostly because their dad loves NASCAR.
They like number 48 driver Jimmie Johnson Mikey says, because their dad pulls for him.
But they havent watched a race, Mikey said, since their dad left for war in August.
Cynthia Kimbrell has her hands full at home with three young boys and two teenage daughters.
Her husband Brad has his hands full in Afghanistan with a constant threat of bullets and bombs and bouts of homesickness.
Her husband and the rest of the local troops should be home by June 2013, but the near-year that passes between when the soldiers left and when theyll be back creeps by for these families.
Nancy Guffey said she tries to see the upside: shes made it two months into her husbands deployment so she can make it eight or nine more.
She also has a cousin serving in Afghanistan with the 178th battalion.
A weekly Skype session on the computer helps the family cope. Nancy Guffey said, a little prayer goes a long way, too.
Her husband her soldier David Guffey had time for a video chat from Sharana Base in Afghanistan on Saturday morning before Nancy and her daughter Holly headed to the armory to assemble his care package.
Holly carefully picked out her dads favorites from among ten or more tables full of donated items from the Rock Hill community. David Guffey will be enjoying Pringles, Lance Snack Crackers and a crossword puzzle when he gets the box in about 10 days.
Theyre also sending him a scrapbook that Holly made with photos from a Fourth of July cookout they had six days before the soldier shipped out for Afghanistan training.
Many other local troops will get family photos soon, too. Santa and Mrs. Clause arrived at the armory on Saturday in camouflage military Christmas suits, ready to pose for pictures.
Dave Jordan and his wife, Ann, are Santas helpers, standing in for the real guy whenever children need to rattle off their Christmas wish list and check to make sure the beard is real.
Jordan served in the Vietnam War. He volunteers his time as Santa because he knows the emotional toll of war, and the stress of being deployed and being the family left behind.
He proudly wears jingle bells on his combat boots and a USO and American flag patch on his Army Santa suit.
The kids abandoned their racetrack construction at the armory when they heard Jordan belt out Ho, Ho, Ho!
At that moment in Rock Hill around midnight in Afghanistan their mommies and daddies were on a military base more than 7,000 miles away, alongside 160 other Rock Hill soldiers.
One little 4-year-old girl, gripping a stuffed animal, spotted the camo-clad Santa from 40 feet away and whispered daddy.
Her mother explained, Anybody in camo is daddy.
Anna Douglas 803-329-4068