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Vet helps buddies get some mail



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First Sgt. Norm Van Sparrentak stops for lunch at the Olde Village Cafe before heading to a Desert Angel packing party. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
December 15, 2010 - Home after 42 months in Iraq, First Sgt. Norm Van Sparrentak still serves his buddies overseas.

He put on his dress blues to help out at the Desert Angel packing party, Dec. 9, at Oakland County Sportsmen's Club, and was at the American Legion Post 63's packing party the week before.

"It's the least I can do," said the recently retired Military Police non-commissioned officer. "Louise (Downs, founder of Desert Angel) convinced me to show up today."

He knows how important care packages and letters from home are to troops serving overseas, bringing several letters and cards to the packing party.

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"Any letter or card I received, I saved I answered every one of them personally," said Van Sparrentak, of Sterling Heights. "When a large card would arrive with 30 kids names on them, I'd answer each and every one of them."

In care packages, he liked breakfast cereal bars, especially Special K Strawberry, he said.

"You could put them in your vest pockets and eat them anytime," he said.

Beverage powders packaged for individual servings were much tastier than plain water, he said.

"I liked the tea packets," he said. "Add raspberry tea to your water it was awesome."

After 27 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, most recently with the 300th MP Command, the decorated veteran helped process 37,000 prisoners of war in the first Gulf War in 1991, and kept watch on several high-profile prisoners of the second Gulf War.

"My claim to fame is I sat with Saddam (Hussein, Iraqi dictator executed in 2006) every day for four months," he said. "We talked about everything (speaking through a translator). He didn't think Bush would come through. He loved blondes. Just chit chat."

He still has the letters he received from the United States during Desert Storm, he said.

"I have every single one of them," he said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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