AN Afghan hero paid tribute to the pensioners aiding troops on the front line.

Paratrooper Stephen Handley has thanked a pensioner couple for sending dozens of care packages to troops on the frontline in Afghanistan.

Rita Porter, 75, and her 78-year-old husband Cyril Porter have put together 62 shoeboxes full of goods in the last four months.

The Newsome couple have delivered the packages – including items such as playing cards, toothpaste and pot noodles – to the Spotted Cow in Salendine Nook.

Landlady Joanna Flanagan has organised the shoebox collections to help one of her regular customers Stephen, who has been on duty in Afghanistan.

Rita said yesterday: “I read about the shoebox collection in the Examiner and I was all for helping the lads because I think it’s a good cause.

“We put in things like roll-on deodorants, toothpaste, pot noodles, sweets, Yorkshire mixtures and dominoes.

Private Henry Harris, 25, of 3 Para, wrote to the Porters thanking them for their care packages.

Rita said: “I got a lovely letter from him. He’s from Herefordshire and he said he had never had Yorkshire mixtures before.

“It was good to get the letter, it gave us an incentive to continue.”

The Porters met Stephen for the first time at the Spotted Cow yesterday afternoon.

The Para is currently on a short break in his six-month tour.

Stephen, from Salendine Nook, said: “I just said ‘thank-you very much’ because the guys really appreciate the packages.

“When you get a shoe-box it really breaks up the monotony of the day. It can get really boring.”

Stephen, who will turn 27 in Afghanistan next month, began his second tour in the country in October.

The lance-corporal is in the middle of a 12-day rest and recuperation break back home before completing the rest of his deployment.

Stephen has been spending time with his girlfriend Sara Robbins, 26, and their 18-month-old daughter Megan.

He said: “It’s brilliant seeing her again. When I left she wasn’t walking, but now she’s walking and talking.”

Landlady Joanna Flanagan has collected 120 boxes in the past four months.

She said: “At first we got a good response, but then it went to the back of people’s minds and some people thought we weren’t doing it any more.

“But there’s no time limit on this. People can drop off their shoe-boxes at the pub, or even just a few items which we can put in a box for them.

“Then I take them to Salendine Nook Post Office who send them to Afghanistan for free, as long as each shoe-box is under 2kg.”

Donors are asked not to bring aerosol cans.

For more information on Operation Shoebox visit