A GRATEFUL soldier has paid a long-awaited visit to the kind-hearted Sunderland woman who has been sending gifts to troops for years.
Ross Brown, a reservist major in the Parachute Regiment, first received a care package from Mary Metcalfe, 76, in 2010.
After hearing that Mary had fallen and broken her hip while on holiday in Spain, the 52-year-old decided it was time to visit the lady who had kept his spirits up while stationed in Helmand.
Mary regularly sends troops boxed gifts of sweets and toiletries.
“It made things worthwhile,” said Ross, from Mary’s home in East Herrington. “It made a good day out of sometimes quite a bad day.”
The care packages include practical things such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant as well as Pringles, coffee and tea.
“I usually send about five boxes a week,” said Mary. “Everyone in the post office knows me.”
“I’m planning to send more this week, but it’s a bit difficult to get around with my hip.
“But I can wrap the boxes on the table.”
Former nurse Mary began sending the care packages three years ago, after reading an internet article about another woman doing the same and contacting her for the details.
Ross and his wife, Jenni, 64, travelled 364 miles from Bournemouth, Dorset, to meet Mary for the first time.
“I think she’s worth it,” he said.
Mary has even sent the couple a box at home after their daughter had a baby, including a ladybird nightlight.
Ross returned the favour during his visit by bringing Mary a package of sweets, toiletries and photographs.
Ross joined the army in 1982 but it was in Nad Ali, in Southern Helmand, that he first heard of Mary.
“It was just such a lovely thing that someone you’d never met would take the time to do this,” he said.
“It made a real difference to morale.”
He and the other soldiers have been taking it in turns to write back to Mary, as she always includes a letter of support in her packages.
Mary’s Spanish holiday pain
MARY Metclafe was front page news when she was stranded in a Spanish hospital.
The widow broke her hip and pelvis after she fell on the first day of her holiday in Majorca, in June.
But despite being well enough to fly back to Wearside, she was stuck in hospital while insurers processed her claim.
She was finally flown back to Newcastle International Airport after spending more than three weeks in Palmaplanas Hospital in Palma.