Dining out isn’t just fun for 12-year-old Erin Miller. It’s part of a mission.
At restaurants, the Chandler girl collects packages of hot sauce, ketchup and anything else that can be squeezed onto meals ready to eat, or MRE in military terms.
They are hot items for the military personnel overseas she serves through the nonprofit organization AdoptaPlatoon.
"Some of (the restaurants) are pretty generous," said the sixth-grader at Chandler’s Goodman Elementary School. "Some of them gave me, like, three."
In the last year and a half, Erin has led an effort to send e-mails, letters, food, toys, newspapers and other items to military personnel.
Erin began adopting platoons as a service project for another youth organization after her mother, Aimee Mundy, saw the group’s Web site.
Erin, whose uncle served in the military when she was 6, latched onto the program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"I appreciated what they do before that happened, and it means even more now," she said.
Erin has a folder with 188 virtual and actual addresses for troops overseas.
With the help of her mother and her friends, she has touched the lives of dozens of GIs. Erin has also reached out to children in Kosovo and Bosnia. She collects supplies for orphanages and schools for Operation Crayon, another AdoptaPlatoon program.
Erin has a photo album of letters, postcards and other mementos sent by her friends overseas, as well as snapshots from a tour of the USS Stennis she took a year ago when it was docked in San Diego.
Erin downsized her deliveries after seeing the cramped conditions in which a shippedout sailor must live. The warship’s bunks weren’t big enough for her, let alone a grown man or woman.
But her mother reports their most recent shipping bill ran $238.