Linda Embry can barely find a place to sit down in her own home. Filled with empty boxes, a smattering of canned goods, baby food and other supplies, her home looks more like a supermarket stockroom than living quarters for a family of five.
But she doesn't complain. The mother of four is single-handedly conducting a food drive to help military families whose spouses are still deployed in the Middle East or otherwise struggling with the aftereffects of the Persian Gulf War.
"I really believe the guys are the heroes, but their wives and children are the unsung heroes who have been holding down the fort," Embry said. "They shouldn't have to worry about groceries when their loved ones are in harm's way."
Embry is just one of hundreds of individuals around Orange County who have turned their homes into mini-food warehouses to help the families of service members. Some are former military wives who are familiar with the waiting, while others just want to help.
Whatever the reason, the outpouring of support is phenomenal, said Staff Sgt. Malcolm Daggett of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. "It is incredible," Daggett said. "I have never seen anything like it."
Unable to work because of a back problem, Embry devotes her energy to the food drive.
So far she has delivered 34 boxes of goods to the base and is soliciting donations for another round. She has successfully gotten local police associations, schools and businesses involved. Her first shipment was a triumph. "It is a feeling you get that you can't buy."
Zipora Shifberg-Mancher of Tustin started a drive dubbed Breaking Bread with a little help from a local reclamation business that donated bins for the food-collection campaign. The bins were placed all over the city so that people could drop off supplies at their convenience.
For Ernestine De John, a former military wife from Huntington Beach, it was firsthand experience that got her involved. When her husband, Anthony, spent a year in Korea and two tours in Vietnam, she didn't have help. Left to take care of her child, she found that there wasn't always enough money.
"I have been in these girls' shoes, but at a time when there wasn't any assistance," said De John, who has been running a food drive out of her home for several months. "They need it and deserve it."
After flyers were placed in the local shopping center and her neighbors were told about the donation drive, the goods started pouring in. "I have people driving here from all over and asking what they can do. It is marvelous."