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You Are Here Sunflower Magazine > Sun Seeds Boost Military Personnel

Sunflower Magazine

Sun Seeds Boost Military Personnel
November 2011

Donations of sunflowers seeds are a small way to say “thank you” to American military personnel.

Don Wille, formerly employed by ADM Benson Quinn, Minneapolis, and his wife, Renee, are involved with the Blue Star Mothers (mothers with sons or daughters in the military). Through this organization, the Willes have been working with the Armed Forces Service Center (AFSC). They see first-hand how what might seem like an insignificant thing, like a small bag of sunflower seeds, can make a big impact.

The Armed Forces Service Center is a one-of-a-kind facility unique to Minnesota that attends to the needs of military personnel who are being deployed overseas or on their way home. It was founded by Maggie Purdum in 1970, as a tribute to those who serve, after her son was killed in action in Vietnam. It is an “all free” stop, located at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, for active-duty military personnel, their dependents, activated reservists and national guardsmen, as well as Department of Defense and PHS employees (on orders) and other members of the uniformed services on active duty. It offers everything from a fresh cup of coffee to a furnished sleeping bunk house. The AFSC serves more than 4,000 troops a month.

Minneapolis is just one of three major airport hubs that provide similar services. AFSC volunteers are often the last civilians that the military personnel see before deployment, or the first civilians they see on their way home.

While the troops are waiting for their plane to be loaded, they truly appreciate receiving a snack or light meal to hold them over. That is where the sunflower industry has been a tremendous partner. Dahlgren & Company and CHS Sunflower have supplied both in-shell sunflower and sunflower nutmeats to the AFSC. The troops enjoy these snacks, as they keep them occupied and their hunger satisfied while they wait. For those who smoke, and are not allowed to do so while on duty, the sunflower seeds offer an alternative.

“This has been an ongoing project for the last six years,” Wille says, “We hope to continue this until all of our boys and girls are home.” Like many people, Wille is keenly aware of the negative homecoming experience some Vietnam veterans had to endure upon returning to the United States after service in the war. His son is a veteran, so personally and professionally, this has been a priority project aimed to provide for all troops.

Debra Cain, executive director of the AFSC in Minneapolis, requests that the sunflower seeds keep coming. “Whenever we need a new shipment, all I need to do is call, and both CHS and Dahlgren make sure that we have the sunflower.”

Both companies say it’s their small way of contributing to a very worthy cause. They are proud to be part of a project that offers much-deserved support for our military.

Wille adds, “This is one of many examples of how the sunflower industry comes together to work for the common good.”

For details on the Armed Forces Service Center, go to

— Sonia Mullally

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