From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
STORM WILLIAMS, 48

Lewisville, N.C.

When Storm Williams had buddies deployed in the Persian Gulf in '91, he saw a news report describing the monotony and isolation of war, so he started shipping cartons of paperbacks. In 2003, after troops were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, he launched Books for Soldiers (booksforsoldiers.com). Since 2008 Williams and his volunteers have sent 8,000 care packages-filled with books, CDs and DVDs-each month.

FRIENDS IN NEED

After sending the first batch of books to his pals, Williams was surprised to get heartfelt letters from soldiers he didn't know. "Somehow or other I got one of your books and I really do appreciate it," one soldier wrote, adding that he'd read the book four times.

SPREADING THE WORD

Touched by their response, Williams, a business technology strategist, eventually created a website matching soldiers' book requests with volunteers nation-wide. "Some of these guys have had eight or nine deployments while we're at home in air conditioning. We find the books they want-Stephen King and Tom Clancy are favorites-write letters, throw in cookies, candy or pencils and create a care package. It doesn't cost much."

GRATEFUL TROOPS

Army Reservist Cpt. Brandon Mace, 35, of Fort Rucker, Ala., read more than 100 books-including the Star Wars series-sent during his deployment in Iraq in 2009 and 2010. "Knowing that someone would spend their own money and go buy books for me was so great," he says. "It was a reminder that someone's thinking about me, that someone cares."

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