Operation Christmas Stocking Deadline Quickly Approaches

By Carmen Burgess
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2006 - Time is running out to get the stockings of troops stationed in Iraq stuffed through Operation Christmas Stocking. The deadline to get needed items to the program's warehouse is Nov. 1.

This is the second year that Operation Give and Stars for Stripes have teamed up to spread holiday cheer to those stationed far from home. Operation Give and Stars for Stripes are both members of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights grassroots and corporate support of U.S. servicemembers.

The drive, which kicked off in July, is receiving assistance from FedEx to get supplies shipped free of charge to the Salt Lake City warehouse and then on to locations overseas.

In 2005, more than six tons of stockings were sent to servicemembers in Afghanistan. This year, organizers have set a lofty goal of getting 20 tons, more than 10,000 stockings, to those stationed in Iraq.

"If we take care of every boot on the ground, then we would start giving them to the kids," said Judy Seale, president and chief executive officer of Stars for Stripes. "(We) cannot send too many."

Paul Holton, an Army National Guardsman and founder of Operation Give, said these efforts are important to the troops because they're a tangible show of support from home.

Participants in the program can make their own stockings, gift bags or decorative boxes. Or they can simply send items to the warehouse, where they will be stuffed before mailing to the troops. Suggested items for donation include: Christmas cards and decorations, CD/DVDs, hand sanitizer, personal hygiene items, personal fans, socks, games, calling cards, non-perishable food items, disposable cameras, and toys for servicemembers to give to Iraqi children.

After spending more than a year Iraq, Holton said that he knows getting gifts from home makes a huge difference. He and his unit received a huge morale boost from the Christmas tree, ornaments and gifts sent to them while stationed there in 2003 and 2004.

"[The troops] are on our minds constantly," he said. "They're in our prayers, and we want them to know that."

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