Minnesota Legionnaire Ed Meyer started GPS for Troops in 2005 when a former student of his was preparing for a deployment to Iraq and asked Meyer which GPS unit would be best to take on the deployment. Meyer, shocked to find out that the Department of Defense was providing only one GPS device per unit, decided that wasn’t good enough.
Since that time, Meyer’s GPS for Troops – through St. Augusta American Legion Post and Auxiliary Unit 621 in Minnesota – has shipped more than 500 GPS units to U.S. servicemembers who served in Iraq, or did or currently still serve in Afghanistan.
“I never thought it would get this big,” said Meyer, an Army veteran and retired school teacher. “We just saw an opportunity to do something for our troops, and it’s sort of grown from there. It’s a cause people want to support.”
Through an arrangement with Lowrance Electronics, Meyer is able to purchase the GPS units for almost one-third of the normal $300 price tag. The GPS units come complete with a microchip to download encrypted detailed mapping of Afghanistan.
“Lowrance has really taken a hold of this project,” Meyer said. “And because they offer us such a discount, that’s why we prefer people donating to the project, rather than purchasing the GPS units on their own and then donating them to us. We can get three for the price of one because of Lowrance.”
Word of the program has spread over the years, to the point where other posts and groups across the country are conducting fundraisers for GPS for Troops. “There’s a need, and when people understand what that need is, they want to help,” Meyer said. “They know the need is there.”
At Post 621, a wall has been set aside to display pictures servicemembers have sent to Meyer of them using the GPS units. Meyer said the project also has gotten several written testimonials from servicemembers who’ve received a GPS unit – and from members of their families:
“I got the GPS the other day & it works perfectly in the area around Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan. THANKS AGAIN!” – SGT. Donald Brown, from Tupelo, MS
“Having the GPS unit would allow myself and others in my vehicle get to a destination in any event. It is an assurance for us to know we would get to where we needed to be no matter what.” – SPC Douglas Androsky
“I think what y’all are doing is great. As a Sgt. in the Marines it is really hard to get great gear to take to the forward line and complete the mission. I support you guys as much as you’re supporting us. Thank you. ” – Sgt. Patrick Poindexter USMC
"Thank you so much!! What a thrill for us to know that he has the GPS. You have blessed a soldier and his parents!” – Rebecca