Friday, December 25, 2009

Civilians Provide Holiday Cheer to Troops, Families

Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Samantha Quigley

WASHINGTON – Service members and their families continue to enjoy tremendous support from American civilians, but at no time of the year is that support greater than during the holidays.

"We learn of citizens' efforts to support our troops every year, but this year there seems to be a real outpouring of support from not only citizens and nonprofit organizations, but also businesses," said Adrien Starks, chief of the community relations civic outreach team for the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs. "I don't think people have any idea about the amount of support the American people are giving our troops."

Operation Gratitude, with donations from American Veterans Traveling Tribute and Sands Resorts, was able to send special care packages to two lucky service members. The packages were sent in honor of the organization reaching its 500,000th package milestone.

American Veterans Traveling Tribute is a veteran-owned project that provides communities with a forum to "Honor-Respect-Remember" those who have given their lives for their country.

Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon, in cooperation with shipping company DGL, has shipped 500 live Christmas trees to troops in the Middle East. Unilever employees also have shown incredible support for the troops by providing warehouse space for packaging, shipping and mailing thousands of care packages.

Another organization, Trees for Troops, also is sending live trees to more than 50 military facilities in the United States and overseas. The organization teamed up with FedEx and the Christmas SPIRIT Foundation to send the 15,000 live trees.

"FedEx and its team members are pleased to support Trees for Troops, delivering holiday cheer to military men, women and families," Douglas G. Duncan, president and CEO of FedEx Freight, said in a news release. "Now in its fifth year, this program provides us the opportunity to say thanks to those who serve our country in the Armed Forces."

Operation MOMs Cookies is sending a "Box of Home" to nearly 1,500 troops this holiday season. Each box will contain a miniature, decorated Christmas tree, a stocking handcrafted by volunteers, an American flag and items requested by the service member or their families.

"This year's box also includes a unique gift," Debbie Trippiedi, founder of Operation MOMs Cookies, said in a news release. The gift is the CD, 'Not Alone,' an original country rock ballad written by Brent James and Kevin Wright and recorded by Righteous Hillbillies for inclusion in the 2009 Box of Home.

Because keeping families connected is so important, especially during the holiday season, Operation Homelink and Raytheon presented 150 refurbished computers with webcams to Fort Benning and Georgia National Guard families on Dec. 12.

"Having this computer is a great comfort," Grace Melendrez, wife of William Melendrez, told Operation Uplink officials when the computers were distributed. "This is our first Christmas apart, so it will be hard. His being able to see my 3-year-old son on Christmas will make all the difference in the world."

Melendrez's husband is deployed with the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

Operation Homefront has teamed with retailers to provide support to many service members and their families this holiday season.

A partnership with Dollar Tree resulted in about $6 million worth of customer-donated toys for military children across the United States.

A $1.1 million donation from Wal-Mart helped to provide toys and books for military kids, $1,000 shopping events for 50 military families nationwide and gift cards for families, which were distributed through local Operation Homefront chapters. Those caring for wounded warriors received special gift kits.

These programs are a sampling of the support Operation Homefront provides to service members and their families.

Headed up by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Ondrasik of "Five for Fighting" fame, a group of comedians gave their time to create the third edition of "CD for the Troops" project, "Stand Up For Troops." The project is the result of a partnership between Ondrasik, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, Aware Records and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

"This year we've gone for laughs with bits from world class comics -- Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Jeff Foxworthy, Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler, Dennis Miller, and more," Ondrasik said.

All active duty military members and veterans with valid military identification can log on to and download the comedy routines as well as an Ondrasik song from the award-winning documentary "Brothers at War."

The previous two CDs have music selections from various artists.

"Military families are being embraced more and more by our communities," Starks said. "Based on the anecdotal stories I hear from the families, the acts of kindness couldn't come at more opportune times. Homes are being saved, children are being reminded that their deployed parent still loves them, and spouses back home are being supported in their communities."

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