CIGAR SMOKING IN PUERTO RICO, IRAQ AND ALL POINTS IN BETWEEN
Sergeant Felix Gonzalez (Pictured left).
“My name is Felix Gonzalez. I am 36 years old. I am from Puerto Rico. I joined the Army in 2015. (Kind of late, I know. LOL.) I’m currently deployed in Iraq in support of OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve].
“I started smoking cigars 10 years ago. My wife and I were walking in Old San Juan, PR, and I saw a crowd of people in a corner of one of the Plazas, smoking and having a great time. Next to them was a small tent where the late Don Rafael Ramos was hand rolling cigars.
“I fell in love with the technique and precision of his job, not to mention the history of the tobacco in Puerto Rico and the Americas as told by Don Rafael.
“That night, I smoked my first real handmade cigar made by one of the PR’s best cigar rollers. BTW, it was a chocolate-flavored cigar. I returned the following weekend, but I decided to smoke a ‘real cigar’ (not flavored). The rest is history.”
Before his death, Don Rafael Ramos would hand roll cigars several days a week under the Tabacalera Ramos tent in Plaza Colon in Old San Juan. Watch him in action while you light a cigar in Rafa’s honor.
FAR FROM HOME, WHERE DO SOLDIERS GET THEIR SMOKES?
Once cigar lovers like Sergeant Felix Gonzalez are deployed, premium cigars are hard to come by. So soldiers and other military members turn to Operation: Cigars for Warriors (OP: CFW). Cigar lovers and tobacconists donate the premium cigars (or cash to buy them). Then OP: CFW bundles 25 smokes with a Boveda, zips them into a plastic bag and sends them via the U.S. Postal Service to troops.
It takes about three weeks until the cigar care packages make it to the combat zones. All along the way, Boveda adds and absorbs moisture to lock in a precise 69% RH that’s perfect for the premium cigars. So even the smokes heading to Sgt Gonzalez in sweltering, arid Iraq arrive in perfect smoking condition.
Over the last six years, OP: CFW has shipped more than 919,700 cigars to combat troops, according to Robert Allan, OP: CFW director of operations.
Recently Sgt Gonzalez received one of those cigar packages. “This is my first experience with Operation: Cigars for Warriors and I am grateful for this organization. I can’t say enough. I wasn’t expecting the number of cigars I received,” he said.
“The selection was excellent—from Partagas, Toraño and some others brands I had never tried before, but all premium and delicious cigars.”
YOU SHARE, THEY SHARE
Herfing in Iraq with cigars from Operation: Cigars for Warriors. Sgt Gonzalez said, “There’s a cigar club here (Chappy’s Cigar Night) sponsored by the Chaplain and we gather every Tuesday to enjoy our cigars and chat. I decided to donate my cigars from OP:CFW, so everybody can enjoy and take advantage of what you are doing for us. Also, I encouraged them to register in OP:CFW.”
ALL VOLUNTEER, ALL DONATED
Packing up smokes for deployed troops donated by cigar smokers like you. Left to right: Robert Allan, OP: CFW director of operations, and Mike Rossignol, the owner of Roz’s Cigar Emporium. The Ocala, Florida, tobacco shop is the central location for the nonprofit program. Snowbird cigar lover passing through Northern Florida? Check out Roz’s for Cuey, Dujo and other top cigar brands. Bruce Ackerman, photographer Ocala Star Banner.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO SEND A CIGAR CARE PACKAGE TO A SOLDIER?
OP: CFW shells out $13 for USPS freight for each care package. The 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization relies on donations for shipping, cigars, plastic bags, etc. Boveda donates its 2-way humidity control to protect cigars in the care packages.
WANNA SEND A SGT A SMOKE?
(FYI: Sgt Gonzalez says he enjoys a good Liga Privada or Oliva Serie G.)
3 WAYS TO GIVE (Your donation is tax deductible.):
- Click here to immediately set up your monthly auto donation or give one time.
- Dip into your humidor for a few favorite sticks and send cigars directly to OP: CFW.
- Drop off cigars at any of 200 OP: CFW’s donation sites. Many are in smoke shops, where you can also buy a box and leave it there.