Saturday, December 25, 2010

Operation Santa

Not many people are familiar with my deployment location.  When I was outprocessing my base, I got many looks of confusion about what I was to bring with me.  It is not a common deployment, so I was asked lots of curious questions none of which I could answer.  I even got the “Oh you’re going on a vacation!  That’s no deployment!”

But being out here is no vacation.  It’s not shaking with mortar attacks, but it sure as heck isn’t a day at the beach.  We’re still a bunch of deployed folks stuck in a box surrounded by barbed wire and concrete walls.  We still miss out on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special events that we want to share with our loved ones.  We don’t get free access to the civilian life outside (except for rare occasions like shopping for supplies).  We are deployed.  Plain and simple.  Just like all deployments, many of us would rather be home.

So when I see people leave the mail room with a box in their arms, I know without a doubt that a friend sent them something special because of the grin on their face.  And I know when someone leaves empty handed, their tight-lipped smile tells a story of hope for a package one day.  This Christmas, my boss and I decided to bring packages to EVERYONE deployed out here.  We wanted each person to hold something in their hands that was sent to them by someone who cares.

The first step was brainstorming.  What could we get them?  How?  Who could we go through?  Easy peasy.  Everyone here loves most of the same things:  hygiene products, coffee, snacks, feel-goods (for girls, nice smelly stuff and for guys, cigars and … guy stuff) and believe it or not—toys.  Yep.  We like puzzles, games, footballs, teddy bears, anything that brings out the kid in us.  Rubik’s Cube is HUGE. 

The “how” and the “who” came easily— and other care package companies that exist solely to support the troops.  These companies are just incredible.  And you’ll see why soon.  Once I researched places that supported the military, I simply submitted requests for a REALLY BIG care package donation.

I contacted US Troop Care Package, describing our mission and giving them an estimate of how many troops were out here.  In a month, we received HUNDREDS of mini Christmas stockings filled with candies!  But we didn’t want JUST candies.  We wanted our troops to feel special. 

Every month, we do a “recess.”  Yep, like an elementary school type of recess.  Without the jungle gym of course.  Basically, we brought out brain teasers and snacks and announced that it was time for people to stop what they were doing and stretch!  Get some fresh air, play a brainteaser game.  Take a break.  ToySmith once donated a sample of toys like the Rubik’s Cube and other puzzles.  Everybody who went to recess absolutely loved it.  We got so many notes of appreciation.  Their morale lifted immediately!
So I contacted ToySmith directly through e-mail and told them how much our troops appreciated their products and asked them if they would kindly donate a Christmas donation of toys.  I immediately received a response from them and a few weeks later, several boxes of games and toys came in the mail!

The stockings and the toys were certainly a huge blessing!  Well, God had a better idea.  He drove people from the United States to send wonderful care packages “just for the troops during Christmas.”  And He enabled us to do a big shopping trip for more care package items.

Sorry, Prancer, Santa's got a new ride!

Operation Santa took place.  And Christmas was brought to our deployed sites.  Not by reindeer… but that wasn’t a big deal.  Because gifts came to our troops by way of special military distribution.  Helicopter, baby!  A few boxes came on small planes as well!

We were able to distribute large boxes filled with Christmas goodies to all of our troops both on and off our camp.  We were just ecstatic to have been able to do this!

A huge THANK YOU goes to US Troops Care Package, ToySmith and all our friends and family!  We couldn’t have done it without you!

The Deployed Folks' Santa

Santa's new transportation!


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