Boatsie’s Boxes inspiration retires from the Air Force

Air Force CM/Sgt. Patrick R. VanVranken (center) prepares to cut a cake presented to him upon his announcement he will be retiring this fall.

After 30 years of service in America’s Air Force CM/Sgt. Patrick VanVranken is retiring from the nation’s armed forces.

His legacy is not just one of service to his country but service to his fellow servicemen and women.

He inspired Boatsie’s Boxes, which has been a Christmas-season campaign that has helped and supported tens of thousands of servicemen and women at posts abroad.

Boatsie Boxes was a non-profit organization designed to support America’s troops with basics, treats, socks and entertainment, according to officials.

VanVranken was raised in Pennington and is the son of Jim and Gail “Boatsie” VanVranken of Wheeling, West Virginia. He first enlisted in October of 1989.

VanVranken mentioned to his parents more than 15 years ago that servicemen and women abroad often find themselves in need of basics and small treats ranging from candy to socks, DVDs to shaving cream.

That is when his parents began their Boatsie’s Boxes project, which became a national campaign, to fill that need by sending Americans in the military boxes, then Christmas stockings, filled with their requested items.

Volunteers helped across all 50 states and often packed the stockings themselves.

Last year, 2,000 of them came from the New Jersey Federation of Women’s Clubs. Many of the stockings had to be stuffed by the VanVrankens and Wheeling-area helpers, according to officials.

Boatsie’s Boxes came to an end this past Christmas season, with the VanVrankens retiring themselves.

“It’s terribly important to remember those sacrificing so much for us, especially during the Christmas season. When they are so far away from home it boosts their morale and it is an easy thing to do,” Gail VanVranken said.

Patrick VanVranken currently serves as maintenance superintendent of the 28th Munitions Squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota. As superintendent, he leads the personnel responsible for providing safe, reliable munitions and armament systems for B-1 bombers.

Under his leadership VanVranken is responsible for managing a 251-acre Munitions Storage Area consisting of $480 million worth of munitions, armament and equipment.

This work under his management has generated 59,967 sorties (individual missions) by Air Force planes, according to officials.

VanVranken has held various positions in munitions management. He has served at bases in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Japan.

He was also deployed to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates in support of operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel.

He will officially end his career in the Air Force this November, having inspired a campaign that has help so many of his fellow men and women.