This is Paul Holton, better known to many as Chief Wiggles, the founder and President of a Utah based non-profit organization called Operation Give (operationgive.org). Back in 2003, while serving in the military in Iraq, out of the blue and totally unsolicited I received a huge Christmas present from a group of my co-workers back home. When I opened the box, to my total surprise there was a beautiful Christmas tree with all the decorations, carefully wrapped Christmas presents and Christmas stockings stuffed to the brim; enough for everyone in my office at Saddam’s palace in Baghdad.
To this day I will always remember the joy we all received on Christmas day as we opened the presents and went through the items in the stockings. We were thrilled beyond words as we contemplated their thoughtfulness. It was as if someone had delivered a slice of home to each and every one of us, all away from family and loved ones during that Christmas season. Through that simple act of kindness we all knew we had not been forgotten.
Ever since that day I have been determined to replicate that experience for others serving our country in far off – war-torn lands during Christmas. For the past 8 years, Operation Christmas Stocking as been able to send 5,000 to 10,000 amazing stuffed Christmas stockings to men and women serving in the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea.
Operation Christmas Stocking is going strong this year too; with people here in Utah and all over the United States sending in stuffed Christmas Stockings and/or a variety of items to be used as stocking stuffers. Our Operation Give volunteers will be at the warehouse many evenings this month stuffing stockings, right up until we have to ship them overseas.
But, we need your help. We are in desperate need of additional items to help make these stockings the best stockings ever. We are frequently running out of items the service men and women would enjoy, but we think your products would be just the ticket. We currently need Healthy Snacks and Nuts. We also need personal care items, and entertainment items. Actually any items that you would think the Troops would like would be perfect! You could bring these items to the Friday Stocking Stuffer Event or they could be dropped off earlier.
I would greatly appreciate your kind and generous donation of items that could be stuffed in Christmas Stockings for our troops. Please let us know what amount of items you would like to contribute to this great cause and coordinate their pickup or delivery with Elaine Ward at 435 512 4956 or Paul Diamond at _801-897-6543.
Our warehouse is located at Mesa Moving & Storage 2275 S 900 W Dock 49 Salt Lake City, UT 84119
The true meaning of Christmas is love for our fellow men and showing that love through small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness. Are you starting to see the picture now?
For the past 8 years Operation Christmas Stocking has shipped off thousands and thousands of stuffed filled-to-the-brim Christmas stockings to our fellow citizens serving in the armed forces, away from family and loved ones during Christmas.
Please spread the word and get others to help and participate in this great cause. There are still tens of thousands of service men and women that will be alone during Christmas, stationed around the globe, misDSCN0164sing all the things that remind them of their own family traditions back home.
We need your help; your Christmas stockings, items to stuff into stockings and your time at the warehouse stuffing stockings. Remember Christmas is not about you; it is about others and showing others how much you sincerely appreciate and love them. Don’t miss the opportunity to show our troops that we haven’t forgotten them on this the Christmas of 2013.
This is your chance to catch the wave of glad tidings and good cheer to be sent in the shape of a ChDSCN0187ristmas stockings overseas to those protecting our freedoms, living in harms way.
Please do what you can and then do more, you will be blessed for it.
Link to OperationGive.org
Please visit our website for more information.
“As time has permitted over the last few weekends, with a little help from our friends, we have been able to venture out to some new areas beyond the outskirts of Seoul, South Korea. Without a whole lot of prior planning and armed only with our smiles and a few helping hands, we have created opportunities to reach out to those in need and to have a rewarding experience for us and those receiving our help.
In our quest for those groups that are in the greatest need or for those groups that have been neglected or overlooked, we came across the Doong Ji Orphanage on the island of Daeboo Do, south west from Seoul along the western coast line about an hour and a half by car. This orphanage was originally started by a Buddhist Monk, who maintains a small humble Buddhist temple adjacent to the orphanage, which is not much bigger than a medium sized house.
The orphanage is in an old 3 story drab cement building, surrounded by dirt on all sides. There is a total of 65 children currently living at the facility, of all ages up to age 18. Of course these are not war babies or anything of the kind. All of the children have parents at least a mother and/or father still living. The children in most cases were dropped off to the orphanage because the parents couldn’t care for them, due to some sort of difficult circumstances, either with the child or the family. All of them come from really poor families and most were dropped off because of difficult financial situations at home. Some of the children were dropped off in what they call the Baby Box, where usually unwed mothers, or women in difficult circumstances drop off the babies right after they are born. Some of the children have been dropped off supposedly temporarily, until the family conditions improve enough for the parents to take back the children, but for the most part the parents don’t return.
We have been out to the orphanage twice now with our group of volunteers, this last time was to help in harvesting vegetables from the green house garden on the property and to prepare a good old American Hot Dog Lunch for all the children, which included a hot dog, some pineapple slices and a small package of cookies. The American hot-dogs were a really big treat for the children, who subsist mainly on a simple diet of rice, soup and a few vegetables.
Situated out in the country on a small island and nestled up in a small valley on the side of a small hill and with no place to play, except for the rocky dirt outside surrounding the building, the children spend most of their time inside the building. They do have a small piece of property that has been cleared and flattened for what is supposed to be a playground, but without sufficient funds the barren ground sits. With the support of a church group back home, we are trying to raise money to purchase the gravel and playground equipment.
The True Meaning of Christmas:
For the first time in over a month it finally feels like there might be an end to the record breaking temperatures
and humidity of another, what seemed to be, a very long hot summer in South Korea. The end of one month and the
beginning of another, September, seems to have also brought in what appears to be the first day of Fall, with a
noticeably different feeling in the air and even a slightly cooler breeze blowing throughout the city of Seoul.
Perhaps you might think it is too early to be thinking about Christmas but given the nature of our mission and task
at hand, we have no other choice but to mention that it is time again to launch Operation Christmas Stocking. With
memories of last year’s shipment of several thousand stockings still dancing in our heads, we clear our minds with
anticipation for yet another great year of Christmas stockings, items to be stuffed and stuffing parties at the
In order to bring you into the right frame of mind, I must ask the question “What is the real meaning of Christmas?
Is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and
friends, snow in the yard, stockings hanging in the living room, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us
in the streets? Is this really Christmas? Of course not, but it is definitely all part of what has become the
traditional celebration of Christmas and Christ’s birth. These are all part of the things we treasure and long for
each and every year. All the things that remind us of perhaps happier days when we were young and still believing in
Santa Claus; when Christmas morning brought such excitement and enthusiasm for the giver and the receiver of
Think for a moment if you were in a place where none of those Christmas traditions existed and you were removed far
from your family and loved ones. What would Christmas be like then? Now you are beginning to understand what it is
like to be a soldier, airmen, seamen or marine; far away during the Christmas season, off in a foreign land, where no
mention or symbol of Christmas exists.
The true meaning of Christmas is love for our fellow men and showing that love through small acts of kindness and
thoughtfulness. Are you starting to see the picture now?
For the past 8 years Operation Christmas Stocking has shipped off thousands and thousands of stuffed filled-to-the-
brim Christmas stockings to our fellow citizens serving in the armed forces, away from family and loved ones during
Please spread the word and get others to help and participate in this great cause. There are still tens of thousands
of service men and women that will be alone during Christmas, stationed around the globe, missing all the things that
remind them of their own family traditions back home.
We need your help; your Christmas stockings, items to stuff into stockings and your time at the warehouse stuffing
stockings. Remember Christmas is not about you; it is about others and showing others how much you sincerely
appreciate and love them. Don’t miss the opportunity to show our troops that we haven’t forgotten them on this the
Christmas of 2013.
This is your chance to catch the wave of glad tidings and good cheer to be sent in the shape of a Christmas stockings
overseas to those protecting our freedoms, living in harms way.
Monday July 1:
Don’t forget to thank an American Soldier:
As our nation’s Independence Day, July 4th, draws near I can’t help but think about the times I have been away in foreign lands on
military deployments celebrating this most historical day. Even though my military work didn’t really stop and there were no parades
or family cookouts, I took time to reflect on the important significance of this our nation’s birthday.
One thing is sure; men and women serving in the military understand the deeper embedded meaning of Independence. What it means
to us as American citizens and what it means to those we are fighting for in other lands. The words “Independence” and “Freedom”
have deep-seated meanings, defined in part by our
I am an American Soldier.
I am a warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of Freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
We also understand the sacrifices made by our For Fathers and by those who served in the Continental Army and the citizen soldiers of the state militia’s, to insure our Independence from tyranny and an oppressive government. We are able to live free today, because of their efforts.
We realize the necessity at times to make the ultimate sacrifice of our lives to promote and defend the cause of Freedom. We in the military have always been ready to serve our nation, as the bastion for freedom, to defend the rights of all people to be free.
As President Ronald Reagan put it,
“The miracle of life is given by One greater than ourselves, but once given, each life is ours to nurture and preserve, to foster, not only for today’s world but for a better one to come. There is no purpose more noble than for us to sustain and celebrate life in a turbulent world, and that is what we must do now. We have no higher duty, no greater cause as humans. Life and the preservation of freedom to live it in dignity is what we are on this Earth to do. Everything we work to achieve must seek that end so that some day our prime ministers, our premiers, our presidents, and our general secretaries will talk not of war and peace, but only of peace.”
― Ronald Reagan, The Quest for Peace, the Cause of Freedom
You might say that Operation Give was formed out of a love for other people and a desire for them to be happy and free to pursue their own destiny, with the help of other freedom loving people. We desire for all to be free to pursue individual happiness, independent from others who desire to enslave or control them.
The mission of Operation Give is to give hope to the deprived and disconnected people of the world; most often where the U.S. military is serving. We provide the much needed material humanitarian supplies and resources to the U.S. Military men and women so they in turn can distribute these items to the people they come in contact with. Operation Give gives hope to people in war-torn countries and to people suffering from natural disasters. We build bridges through giving; spanning cultural differences and language barriers, speaking the international language of love through giving.
Short History lesson by Wikipedia :
Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Independence Day is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions, and political speeches and ceremonies, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government, and traditions of the United States. Independence Day is the National Day of the United States.
During the American Revolution, the legal separation of the Thirteen Colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence that had been proposed in June by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia declaring the United States independent from Great Britain.
After voting for independence, Congress turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, a statement explaining this decision, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the wording of the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams had written to his wife Abigail:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more
As put by a good friend of mine Jack Levine;
As we look forward to the July 4th Independence Day celebration, let’s think for a few minutes about the words that were principally drafted by 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, which resulted in the Declaration of Independence - our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.
Here, in so many unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of those gathered in Philadelphia to contemplate their yet-to-be formed nation’s sentiments for declaring their freedom from British rule. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and other European philosophers.
What Jefferson did with such clarity was to summarize this philosophy in “self-evident truths” and set forth a list of grievances against King George II in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country.
While our nation’s Founding Fathers, fifty-six of whom signed the Declaration on July 4, 1776, are to be honored for their vision, wisdom and sacrifices, it is always appropriate, I believe, to recall certain realities of the time. Like Jefferson himself, others in that group were slave owners, a fact that seems to contradict the heralded preamble to the document:….
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
This contradiction is real, but as historic events unfolded over the decades and centuries to follow, the Declaration of Independence served as a source of motivation for many important movements for justice in our nation…and many other peoples and nations worldwide…to this day.
The American abolitionists’ fight against slavery and the suffragists’ struggle for voting rights for women were firmly rooted in the words of the Declaration.
And of course the on-going movements for civil rights reforms based upon racial, disability, immigration status and other human differences all deserve and demand action to resolve….are each likewise based upon the principles of freedom, liberty and achieving a quality of life declared as unalienable by Thomas Jefferson and his co-authors.
Here is the text of the Declaration of Independence which I urge you to take a few minutes to read in full… http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Winning Hearts and Minds Through Giving.
The mission of Operation Give is to give hope to the deprived and disconnected people of the world; most often where the U.S. military is serving. We provide the much needed material humanitarian supplies and resources to the U.S. Military men and women so they in turn can distribute these items to the people they come in contact with. Operation Give gives hope to people in war-torn countries and to people suffering from natural disasters. We build bridges through giving; spanning cultural differences and language barriers; speaking the international language of love through giving.
Serving our Military Families:
Operation Give’s mission is also to serve our men and women in the military and their military families. Through giving, we express the appreciation of a grateful nation and let them know their service has not been forgotten. We help provide for their families while deployed and give them and others the opportunities to participate in the giving process; as they take catch the giving spirit and become involved in the different giving programs.
Giving helps to save lives through Collateral Kindness.
Our Mission in Action:
Looking back over the past 11 years, since the inception of Operation Give, I have yet to receive one request from anyone serving in the military asking for supplies for themselves. Not one soldier, airman, seaman or marine has ever asked us to send items to them for personal use. Instead, it has always been requests for items they need to give out to others; for the people in the areas they are serving in, for kids in a school, for children in an orphanage and on and on.
No matter where the US military is serving in the world or in whatever capacity, our US military men and women, as they in the course of their duty, see someone in need and have a desire to help. It appears to be the basic nature of those serving in the military to want to help the people in the war-torn countries they go to, or the people suffering from some type of natural disaster, or to help children suffering from a variety of different tragedies. There is always collateral kindness, no matter where we go in the world.
The problem is that these men and women serving in the military do not have supplies or access to supplies of humanitarian-aide, nor does the military itself have the ability to provide the much needed humanitarian supplies. The soldiers, airmen seamen and marines are even forbidden by regulation from soliciting any type of aide or support in this area. (And I know this reg through personal experiences, read my book “Collateral Kindness”)
Even civil affairs units in the military, serving overseas, do not have the supplies they need to conduct their mission. For the most part without the help and assistance of outside organizations, civil affairs units would not be able to provide supplies for local citizens in need.
That is where Operation Give comes in. Over the past 10 years, we have been shipping humanitarian supplies to service men and women all over the world. We have become the collector and shipper of much needed humanitarian items, as we have attempted to fill this void. To date we have now shipped over 120 forty-foot ocean containers filled to capacity with all the items requested by those serving our country overseas, in order to help someone in need.
They might not speak the language, or understand the culture, but everyone understands the language of giving and receiving. Giving does build bridges over many obstacles that might normally prevent trust and mutual understanding from developing. Through the seemingly small acts of unselfishly giving, our service men and women are able to express genuine concern and love; consequently overcoming fear and misperceptions and I am sure at the same time they are creating more positive perceptions.
We aren’t conquering world hunger, but we are winning the hearts and minds of people, young and old, one person at a time, as we reach out to someone in need and provide something they need or want. In the course of our military efforts around the globe, there is collateral kindness and it is paying off.
For the past 40 plus years, in my various military capacities, I have been fortunate to have traveled to far off lands, interacted with many different people from all walks of life and performed numerous military missions and assignments. I have spent 3 deployments in Iraq, from the time the war began to when it basically ended, interrogated numerous Iraqi generals and seen first hand the ravages of war. Amidst all of that, more importantly, I have witnessed the effects of collateral kindness and how many lives have been touched and changed forever.
Celebrating Military Appreciation Month:
Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month in 1999 to ensure the nation was given the opportunity to publicaly demonstrate their appreciation for the sacrifices and successes made by our service members – past and present. As you contemplate the importance of our military in the history of our nation and think of ways you might show your appreciation to our service members, please think of Operation Give.
With our various projects and operations (you can see on our website), we have continued to ship items our service members have requested; ultimately destined for the people they desire to help. Operation Give will continue to supply humanitarian supplies to our service members, as long as the desire to help another continues. Everything we collect gets shipped out to wherever it is needed most.
As service members go about their business of killing bad guys, liberating and freeing those in bondage, and winning the hearts and minds of the people, our soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines will be the cause of much collateral kindness. And we at Operation Give will continue to be focused on supplying humanitarian-aide to soldiers and their families and providing all of them an opportunity to catch the spirit of giving.
Don’t forget to show your appreciation to our service members, any way you can.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Soldier, humanitarian uses ‘Collateral Kindness’ during Iraq deployments, charity work
By Alison Snyder For the Deseret News
Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 12:00 p.m. MST
It started with a young Iraqi girl, separated from her mother.
The frightened 7-year-old was enveloped in the crowd waiting to enter the Baghdad
Green Zone. She was crying for her mother, who had passed through security at the gate
and left her daughter behind to wait.
That was the moment Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton saw the
difference he could make.
Holton, a Salt Lake City resident whose recent book, “Collateral Kindness” (Cedar Fort,
$12.99) narrates his deployment in the opening scenes of the Iraq War from a positive perspective. The book also tells the
story of how Holton’s desire to show love for the Iraqi people led to the creation of Operation Give, his nonprofit
Holton asked the soldiers at the gate to move the barbed wire so the girl could rejoin her mother, then ran to get something
from his office, where he worked as a strategic debriefer for Iraqi informants.
When he returned, he handed the girl some
new flip-flops and some hygiene items, then
placed a stuffed monkey with long arms and
velcroed hands around her neck. Her eyes lit
That moment he saw a vision of how he might
help. “Though it might have seemed like a
small, seemingly insignificant act, it was one
of those times when you realize that you can
make a difference,” Holton said. “One thing led to another, and that was the launching pad, if you will, to start asking people to
send me toys. That act initiated the formation and birth of Operation Give.”
It’s been nearly a decade since the Salt Lake City-based nonprofit was officially formed, and since then the organization has
shipped a total of 120 40-foot container loads overseas. Operation Give has evolved over the years, beginning with shipping
toys for Holton and other soldiers to give to children in Iraq, then spreading to Afghanistan and countries like Sri Lanka and
South Korea, where he is currently serving as the operations officer for the U.S. Army at the Korea Battle Simulation Center.
“Our focus is to stay with the military and support them,” Holton said, which enables the group to have extra resources to
connect with and help the people in the countries where they are serving. The nonprofit doesn’t just send out toys anymore,
but also clothing, shoes, sports equipment, school and medical supplies, hygiene items, and stockings for soldiers during the
Holton was deployed to Iraq again in 2010 as U.S. military operations there drew to a close. The second time around, he
wasn’t interrogating prisoners of war like in 2003, but working in civil affairs. He coordinated with the U.S. State Department
and with religious, community and civil leaders in Iraq, doing reconstructive work such as giving out micro loans to help
people start businesses. There was a more coordinated effort among Iraqis and Americans, Holton said, to go out and do good
things — very different from his first deployment to Iraq.
His deployments in Iraq “have been some of the
most rewarding and enjoyable times of my life,”
Holton said, especially because of what he has
accomplished there through Operation Give. “I can’t
help but feel good about what we’ve done, and the
people’s lives we’ve touched.”
“We don’t know if we’ve added anything to increase
the longevity of democracy in Iraq, but I know a lot
of people have benefited from the items we’ve shipped,” he added.
Since the majority of U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq, Operation Give has sent the bulk of its donations to soldiers in
Afghanistan; the organization has gotten a lot of stories and thank-yous in return.
“You’re planting seeds,” he said. “You never know what will grow out of what you’ve done.”
The title of his book, “Collateral Kindness,” is important, Holton said. “You are on a military mission and you’re in a war. War
is ugly and people die and terrible things happen, but the one thing that also happens is there also is a lot of good and a lot of
Holton said that his faith in God has influenced his perspective as a soldier.
“I believe in mankind and that it’s our job to do things for others and help those in need,” he said. “It has a huge impact and
influence on what I do as a person.”
In his book, he frequently mentions how he has seen God’s hand influence and bless his life and change its direction.
He said it was an important perspective to include in his book — one that was often overlooked in favor of more negative
portrayals of the Iraq War in the media.
“I felt I wanted to be honest about that,” Holton said. “There were so many times that at night, I’d look back at what happened
during the day and I‘d almost come to tears thinking about how miraculous it was. It just forces you to come to your knees to
give thanks for the whole experience, and that I was part of it.”
Alison Snyder has a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Brigham Young University, and has worked for newspapers at
local, regional and national levels.
Copyright 2013, Deseret News Publishing Company
I am sure you have all read or heard plenty of commentary (like the one below),
regarding the lessons of war, on this the tenth anniversary of the invasion of
Iraq. It is hard for me to believe that it has been ten years, since I stood there
in the deserts of Kuwait awaiting word that the invasion had begun.
Iraq, 10 years later, is less threatening but riven by turmoil
By Editorial Board,March 22, 2013
THE ANNIVERSARY this week of the invasion of Iraq has generated plenty of
commentary about the lessons of that war. But relatively little has been said
about the current state of U.S. relations with a country that remains one of the
world’s largest oil producers and a strategic crossroads of the Middle East. For
the first time in decades, contemporary Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors,
and parts of the country are flourishing. But violence continues, the central
government appears to be crumbling, and the United States, by failing to live
up to its promises of partnership, is tipping the country toward deeper trouble.
Iraq remains plagued by the sectarianism that now pervades the Middle East.
Following a democratic election in 2010, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a
Shiite, formed a coalition government with parties representing Kurds and
secular Sunnis. But he has since driven the Sunni vice president into exile,
while the Sunni finance minister and Kurdish foreign minister no longer visit
Baghdad, much less carry out their duties. Sunnis in western Iraq are growing
increasingly restless, while the remnants of al-Qaeda continue attacks against
Shiite targets in Baghdad. Tensions are also growing between Mr. Maliki and
the autonomous region of Kurdistan, with both sides deploying military forces
near territories claimed by both Baghdad and the Kurds.
Of course there is much to be concerned about, given the continuing sectarian
violence that permeates Iraq and most of the Middle East. As listed in the
above article, there is not much to be optimistic about.
But my focus was never on the Iraqi nation as a whole and I really had no
answer for the age-old problems that have plagued Iraq for hundreds of years.
My focus was always on the individual people; the men, women and children
suffering from the affects of a tyrannical ruthless dictator, indiscriminate
killing of thousands of people, unfettered corruption, years of neglect and the
ravages of a prolonged war.
It was always about planting seeds; the seeds of freedom, democracy and hope
for the future. It was about communicating through giving the message that
each individual can make a difference in the lives of those we come in contact
with on a daily basis. The US soldiers really were there to help them in any way
we could, with no strings or conditions attached. Through giving we really did
break down the barriers of language, religion and culture and built bridges of
kindness and concern.
Through seemingly small insignificant acts of kindness peoples lives have been
changed and influenced for the better. Much goodness has come from all that
has been done and a different way of being has been shown to thousands of
Iraqis. An example they will never forget.
The true life story of how all of this happened is in my new book “Collateral
Kindness”, available wherever good books are sold. Get a copy to read the
whole story about all the goodness done over the past ten years and how
Operation Give got its start.
So much time has passed, during which so much good has been accomplished
by Operation Give in the war torn countries of Iraq and Afghanistan, a midst
the fighting and killing. We have continued to ship container loads of donated
humanitarian supplies over those same ten years, now most recently having
shipped our 120th forty-foot container.
To Order New Book- go to www.collateralkindness.com
Sunday, January 13, 2013
Christmas Eve the Holton’s Way:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the plane, not a passenger was
stirring, not even the pilot named Blaine (halfway over the Pacific, I am sure
autopilot was fully engaged), all the travelers were nestled snug in their seats, with
visions of being home for Christmas with plenty of Christmas food to eat. OK, they
weren’t really dancing, but I was going to be home for Christmas for the first time in
almost three years and it was Christmas Eve, so I am sure you will indulge me just a
little this once.
As usual I couldn’t sleep much during the overbooked 15-hour flight from Korea and
spent my time fidgeting around; trying to keep my knees from constantly being
bruised by the large metal monster they call the food-drink-and snack cart, rolling up
and down the isle. Heaven for bid if, in my half-awake half asleep stupor, I was to
miss the soft warning voice of the stewardess to keep my legs and knees out of the
isle. With my knees touching the seat in front of me and my head constantly moving
from side to side, in an effort to find at least one comfortable spot on the headrest
(obviously built for much shorter people), I spent my time watching several in-flight
My plane touched down in Salt Lake City, Utah at 1800 hrs on Christmas Eve, having
left Seoul, about the same time that I landed. My loving wife and son Daniel were
waiting at the airport ready to whisk me away to Benihana’s (a Japanese restaurant),
where the rest of my clan was awaiting my arrival. In our usual Christmas Eve traditional fashion we spent the evening gorging ourselves on Japanese sushi roles,
sashimi and tempura shrimp and somewhat boisterously enjoying each other’s
company, as we joked and laughed the night away.
And of course I was able to see my two granddaughters, who continue to change and
grow day by day. Katella now 17 and preparing to graduate from high school and
Maleah, her eyes-how they twinkled! her dimples how merry! He cheeks were like
roses, her nose like a cherry! (I had just had to finish up with the Christmas story).
With our bellies swimming with fish, we gathered at our home to participate in a few
seemingly harmless but hilarious parlor games; orchestrated by my son Matthew,
who is known to be quite the outrageous party-animal. Have you ever tried to move an Oreo cookie from your forehead into your mouth by using only your facial muscles
and the movement of your head, you should try it. How about trying to get 5 ping-pong balls out of a Kleenex box tied behind your back by just jumping up and down?
Now that is pure fun.
And of course no Holton reunion would be complete without our usual dance party.
Once the tunes start, no true blue Holton can resist the alluring beats, as one by one
we followed our daughter Dana’s lead to shake our booties a bit. I guess the kids just
get a kick out of watching their parents make fools of themselves.
Across the Waters:
Aside from having an outstanding wonderful time with my wife and kids, eating
plenty of great food, enjoying lots of fun activities and having gained a few pounds, I
was able to spend some time at the Operation Give warehouse, where, (with the help
of Elaine and Steve Ward and several volunteers), we loaded 3 more forty-foot
containers and sent them on their way overseas.
Two of the containers were being
sent to our contacts in Afghanistan and one container to a humanitarian group in
Korea that I am working with.
It was just like old times, all of us at the Mesa Systems donated Operation Give
warehouse loading up containers full of all the generously donated humanitarian stuff
that has come in since our last shipment. I have lost count but I believe with these
two containers shipped off that brings our total to about 120 forty-foot containers,
each holding around 30 pallets of boxes or about 20,000 pounds of much needed
With the background sound of the forklift moving pallets into position on the
container, our group of worker bees, utilizing one hand-cranked pallet jack, top
loaded all three containers with the items specifically chosen for their respective
the containers were stuffed with as many boxes as each would hold; from top to
bottom and side to side, with almost no room in between.
There is just no better
feeling then seeing all the love that can be packed into one large container.
With the loading of each and every box of school supplies, medical supplies, blankets,
hygiene kits, shoes, clothes, etc., my heart was filled with happiness and gratitude for
the generosity of all that have contributed so much to make Operation Give a reality.
As I reflected back on all those special moments made possible through these kind
donations, I couldn’t help but give thanks to our Savior Jesus Christ for all of his
sacrifices for mankind.
Soon the contents of these containers will be in our soldier’s hands, as they search for
the right recipient to distribute a bit of kindness to. “Winning the hearts and minds”
of the people where the soldiers are serving is a reality, made possible through all of
your kind donations. The words of that phrase are not just meaningless words to
make war sound humane. Armed with the right merchandise our soldiers really can
make lasting impressions on the people they come in contact with. They can build
bridges through giving; spanning religious and cultural differences, overcoming
misperceptions and falsehoods perpetuated over hundreds of year.
There really is one universal language, the language of giving, understood by all,
regardless of the barriers that might exist. There really is only one way to understand
the impact of such an act and that is through direct first hand participating in the
act itself, the act of giving. Operation Give provides the soldiers the resources needed
to communicate concern and love, to people they would otherwise not be able to
communicate with. The people will remember the day an American soldier gave them
a school bag with supplies, or a box of hygiene items, or their first pair of real shoes,
or a soft stuffed animal, or a soccer ball and the memories will be told over and over
again, as word will spread of the goodness being done.
Doing it the Wiggles Way
USO Korea brightened the days of more than 6,000 soldiers stationed across the Korean peninsula this month with stockings full of goodies donated by Operation Give. As part of USO Korea’s Operation Christmas Cheer program, soldiers from the northern Camp Stanley to the southern Camp Henry and everywhere in between received a friendly knock on their door from a USO volunteer bearing a special surprise: a stocking overflowing with books, playing cards, calendars, personal hygiene items and snacks.
“I knocked on so many doors to give gifts my knuckles are bleeding,” one soldier-volunteer joked after the event, which went from Dec. 18 to Dec. 25.
The efforts of the volunteers who stuffed stockings in the U.S. and the 90-plus volunteers who distributed those stockings in South Korea were clearly appreciated. The USO received positive praise from key base personnel and soldiers in all four USO Korea service areas. But the shocked grins and heartfelt thanks from service members across Korea were the best rewards.
One soldier was so grateful that he took the time to email the young stocking stuffer back in the U.S., whose email address was included in the stocking.
“The USO just came by our barracks roughly 30 minutes ago and gave myself and many other soldiers in our barracks a beautiful Christmas stocking with all kinds of goodies,” the soldier wrote. “I wanted to say thank you … Thank you for making my lonely holidays better. This will be the [sixth] Christmas I spent away from my family, so the more times I spend away from my family the harder it gets to feel the “Holiday” cheer. But young American’s like yourself and the incredible USO volunteers (on the “CC”) make me feel much better. … Thank you again for the outstanding gesture and the great feeling of warmth from across the waters.”
As evidenced by this email – and thanks to the hard work of all of the USO volunteers in Korea and the U.S. – USO Korea can declare this mission accomplished. Thanks again to Operation Give for their support of the troops, and happy holidays.
–Story by Laura Martinez, USO Korea Programs Mana
OPERATION CHRISTMAS STOCKINGS
With a certain degree of anxiety and anticipation, I woke early this morning, my
head full of all the things I needed to do this Christmas Eve. As my feet touched the
cold hard floor of my bedroom, I sensed immediately that it was going to be another
exceptionally cold day in South Korea. The weather report, passed along by most
Koreans like shocking gossip, had indicated this winter was going to be another
historically cold season, with snow forecast for later today. The events of the last few
days have definitely put me in the Christmas spirit, having had numerous
opportunities to give out the items in the 100 plus boxes sent by Operation Give,
recently delivered by FedEx to my apartment. It was touch and go, as the last of the
much-needed boxes of Christmas stockings arrived just minutes before our
Operation Christmas Stocking event was to begin. The boxes from the first
shipment were stacked on the side of the road, as the large group of Christmas-
Stocking-handout volunteers mingled about, anticipating the kick off of this years
volunteers, the boxes where opened and one by one the Christmas stockings were
With several stockings in hand, each member of our group of Christmas-cheer- givers
made the rounds throughout the barracks, passing out the bursting-at-their- seams
stockings to the surprised and grateful soldiers. The targets of our activity were the
young single male and female soldiers, away from their families and loved ones
during this Christmas holiday, perhaps their first Christmas away from home.
As the sound of Christmas carols rang through the air, (sung by a few members of
our own Eighth Army Band), we went through each barracks, door to door, knocking
on each and every room, in hopes of finding someone home. “Merry Christmas”, we
said, as we handed a stocking to anyone and everyone answering our knock. No
matter how many times I have done this over the years, (this year now being our 8th
year of doing Operation Christmas Stocking), the feeling is still the same. Seeing the
surprised and happy faces of each soldier receiving a stocking, brings back so many
great memories when I was on the receiving end back in Iraq in 2003.
A group of co-workers at FedEx had sent me a box of stockings; enough for everyone
in my group at the palace in Baghdad. I remember the joy and happiness it brought
each of us, as we pondered the kindness and thoughtfulness of the givers. We knew
we had not been forgotten. Ignoring the cold, our hearts were full of warmth as each
of us experienced the joy of bringing a small piece of Christmas to soldiers serving
our country in a far off land during the holidays. The sparkle in their eyes and the big
smiles on their faces was all the gratitude we needed to make each of us grateful we
had taken the time to participate in the event. Everything went as planned, as
hundreds of Christmas stockings were passed out to soldiers living here at the
Yongsan Base in Seoul, South Korea.
All of this was made possible by Elaine and Steve Ward, all the volunteers at the
Operation Give Warehouse, Mesa Moving & Storage employees, the Goldman Sachs
volunteers, all the great Americans around the country who on their own stuffed
hundreds of Stockings, and of course FedEx who through their trucks and planes
brought the whole thing together.
Thanks so much for your kind and generous donations of your time, substance and
money, helping to make Operation Christmas Stocking another huge success this
year. I salute each of you. Just so you know stockings were sent to many bases where
our troops are serving their country, away from home during this Christmas Season,
the base here where I am being only one of them. I really appreciate all that you
May God bless each of you with his gracious unconditional love.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Today, Dec 14th, while sitting sipping a coke and listening to Polynesian music playing over the loud speakers of the Honolulu Airport, the all too familiar yellow “Breaking News” sign flashed on the screen of the TV. The words “30 Killed, 18 to 20 children” of course caught my attention. I was shocked and instantly saddened by the news that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Newton, Connecticut, killing the principle, the school psychologist and many children.
My eyes became instantly glued to the screen, in hopes of getting more information about the horrific tragedy. Who would do such a thing? What possibly could have gone through someone’s mind that would cause them to commit such a heinous act of violence?
Totally losing interest in eating lunch or drinking my coke, I sat bewildered by the news and couldn’t help but feel an immense sadness for all the families who had lost a loved one, especially to the parents who lost a child. My heart bleeds for their loss, as my mind tries to comprehend this incomprehensible act.
With over two hours left before my plane bound for Korea was to depart, I sat pondering the meaning of my own simple existence; wondering if I was doing anything to ease another’s burden or lightening another’s load. The stark realities of how difficult and challenging life can be continue to smack me in the face on a day-to-day basis. I wish there was something more I could do for the families that lost a child that day.
At around 1200 noon Hawaii time my plane was airborne. With my military course completed and the other purposes of my trip all wrapped up, I headed back to Seoul, Korea. For the next ten hours I flew far from the sunny beaches of the paradise called Hawaii, back into the bitter cold winter weather of South Korea. Leaving the lush green mountains, the pristine sandy beaches, and the cool fresh ocean breezes, I felt fully satisfied and grateful for the unique opportunity my wife and I have been able to enjoy for the past week and a half.
Even though this was a business trip, military related, this has been a much-needed break for both of us. The less demanding pace and peaceful evenings have been just what the doctor ordered. Nothing soothes the heart like the tranquility of the ocean.
Aside from the tragedy, this is a great time of year as we all gather our families together in celebration of our Savior’s birth. Perhaps this year we will give more thanks for all we have been blessed with; sharing more love with family and loved ones and offering up more prayers for those in need. Perhaps will be pause longer to contemplate the value of our own existence and look for ways we might reach out to others. It is never too late to give a helping hand and pay it forward.
For the 8th year in a row, Operation Give has, as you might imagine, sent out another shipment of thousands of stuffed Christmas stocking to our men and women serving in the Armed forces in foreign lands. This has been a phenomenal year for all of us involved in this great operation. People from all over America have come through again, sending in the most amazing Christmas stockings to our warehouse in Salt Lake City. With a little help from our friends at FedEx and Goldman Sachs, and thousands of Americans giving of their time, material and money, Operation Give has stuffed and shipped thousands of Christmas stockings.
Our special thanks go to Mesa Moving & Storage that have provided us a home for the last 5 years. They also receive donations and store them on pallet racks, but they also provide the services of their employees and management at Operation Give events, such as Stocking stuffing events and Veterans Day Events, and greeting our guests, such as the visits of American Legion National Commanders for the last 5 years. They manage the storing of our donations and load our shipments on to 40 ft ocean containers to ship to the troops, or assisting with our shipments through FedEx.
FedEx has picked up the pallets of Christmas stockings and they have already arrived at their destinations, as volunteers on the ground begin their efforts to distribute a little slice of Christmas to Soldiers serving their country. Over the next few days, thousands of Soldiers will know they have not been forgotten and hopefully they will know we appreciate their sacrifice.
Having been personally involved in the actual on-the-ground distribution of such stockings several Christmas’s in a row, I can’t wait to see the smiling surprised faces of soldiers here in Korea, where I am serving. This next week, with the help of the USO, we will be out making the rounds through the Yongsan and Camp Walker barracks, armed with boxes of stockings, as we do our part on this end to share a bit of Christmas cheer with others. Pictures of our events will be on the blog next week.
As part of our own Sub-for-Santa program here in Korea, this coming Saturday, the 22nd of December, a group of us will be taking donated items like blankets, school supplies, shoes, toys, etc., to two orphanages here in the Seoul area. The spirit of Christmas is alive and well, all made possible by your kind and generous donations.
Of course none of this would be possible without the untiring efforts of Elaine and Steve Ward running the Operation Give show back in Utah, during my absence.
I have my own good news to share with all of you. To my own excitement and delight, my book “Saving Babylon” has been reworked and is being republished under the title of “Collateral Kindness”. The title and cover have been changed and the book has been reworked with a new focus and a couple of additional chapters added covering the Operation Give story after my return from Iraq in the spring of 2004. I am extremely excited and I think you are going to love it. You will all have to get your own personal signed copy once it is released the first of January.
Hi this is Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton better known as Chief Wiggles, currently serving the US military in South Korea. I am also the President of a Utah based not for profit organization called Operation Give. Each year we sponsor Operation Christmas Stockingto send thousands of stuffed stockings to our men and women serving in the military deployed in foreign lands like Afghanistan and South Korea during the Holidays. Right now we are in the process of receiving, thanks to FedEx, stuffed Christmas stockings and items to stuff in Christmas stockingsfrom all over the US. We will soon be stuffing additional stockings over at our warehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, so that we can reach our goal of 8,000 stockings, in order to get them all sent to our soldiers before Christmas.
Our men and women serving our country outside our borders, in foreign lands, many putting their lives on the line every day, desire the same things you do during the holidays. We can’t bring them all home, but we can send a piece of Christmas to them by donating Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. We need your help to make this possible.
Motivate your civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout units, church congregations, clubs, teams, etc, to start making and start stuffing and start shipping Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. This is our 8th year of doing Operation Christmas Stockings and this year our goal is to ship 8,000 stockings to service men and women in Afghanistan and other countries.
We need stockings, we need items to put in stockings, and we need thousands of stuffed stockings ready to ship by mid December. Most importantly we need all of your help. I know this is a busy time of year, with the elections and all, and I know times are tough, but the soldiers need to know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you still care about them. Please do what you can and then do more, you will be blessed for it.
You can ship all your stuffed stockings or your stocking stuffers for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can, if you use Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC, Utah.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number or call 435-512-4956.
We also are in need of monetary Donations to help ship the thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website.
When you ship to us, please use FedEx Express Saver a 3-day service and be sure to please write on the outside of boxes “Operation Christmas Stocking”.
Please visit our website for more information.
You can ship all your stuffed stockings or whatever you have for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can.
Please write on outside of Box:
Operation Christmas Stockings
Use Operation Give FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC.
We use Donations to ship the Thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website.
Contact email@example.com to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Stockings to Operation Give’s Warehouse or call 435-512-4956.
Use FedEx Express to send boxes to:
Mesa Moving & Storage
2275 S 900 W Dock 49
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
This morning started like any other morning here in the land of the morning calm, South Korea, as I scurried about trying to check off each action on my routine to-do list. Having been a little under the weather, with some kind of a stomach bug, I was moving a little slower than usual, when my Magic Jack phone rang, identifying the caller as someone from the states. It was my son Michael on the other end. “You know Dad it snowed today up in the mountains”, he said. “What”, I answered, “Snow already in September”. The thought of snow already capping the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains surrounding Salt Lake City propelled me into thoughts of Christmas, creating just the right mood to speak to all of you about Operation Christmas Stocking. With Christmas lurking right around the corner, it is that time of year for all of us to start thinking about those Men and Women serving in the Armed Forces, in far off lands, away from family and friends again during the holidays. Thousands of soldiers are still in harms way as war rages on in Afghanistan, with men and women being killed every day. And we still have 28,000 troops in South Korea.
September is all but over and soon we will be adorning our favorite costumes, as we partake of the appetizer we call Halloween, a precursor to the main course of Thanksgiving, which leads us to the dessert we call Christmas. With all its bright colorful lights, beautifully decorated trees, old familiar carols and lively music, Christmas is the most special time of year, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
I long to be home with my family for Christmas, having myself been away for the past two years, (one Christmas spent in Mosul, Iraq and the other spent here in Seoul, Korea), I long for the smell of turkey, hot homemade rolls, and freshly baked pumpkin pie. I look forward to witnessing for the first time the excitement in my little granddaughter’s eyes, as she tries to fully grasp and understand the many wonders of Christmas. Our men and women serving our country outside our borders, in foreign lands, many putting their lives on the line, long for the same things you do during the holidays. We can’t bring them all home, but we can send a piece of Christmas to them by donating Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. We need your help to make this possible.
Motivate your civic groups, Boy Scout and Girl Scout units, church congregations, clubs, teams, etc, to start making and start stuffing and start shipping Christmas Stockings to Operation Give. This is our 8th year of doing Operation Christmas Stockings and this year our goal is to ship 10,000 stockings to service men and women in Afghanistan and other countries. We need stockings, we need items to put in stockings, and we need thousands of stuffed stockings ready to ship. Most importantly we need all of your help. I know this is a busy time of year, with the elections and all, and I know times are tough, but the soldiers need to know that you haven’t forgotten them and that you still care about them. Please do what you can and then do more, you will be blessed for it. You can ship all your stuffed stockings or whatever you have for free via FedEx. We need to have these shipped well before Christmas, so act as soon as you can. Please write on outside of Box: Operation Christmas Stockings Use Operation Give FedEx account number to send your Christmas Stockings to our warehouse in SLC. We use Donations to ship the Thousands of Stockings to our Troops. To donate toward shipping go to our website. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive Operation Give’s FedEx account number to send your Stockings to Operation Give’s Warehouse or call 435-512-4956. Use FedEx Express to send boxes to: Operation Give
Mesa Moving & Storage
2275 S 900 W Dock 49
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
We serve a faithful God — He is the God of more than enough! Not only does He promise to meet your needs, He promises to give you enough to meet the needs of others, too.
When you are a sower — when you give of your resources, your time, talent, finances and possessions — God promises to multiply those resources so that you can continue to be a blessing to the people around you. You might look at what you have in your hand today and think, “This doesn’t look like much.” But understand that when you give God what you have, He’ll turn it into more than enough! The Bible tells us that Jesus fed a crowd of over 5,000 people by multiplying the lunch of a small boy, and He can multiply whatever you have in your hand, too.
Today, dedicate what you have to the Lord by faith. Ask Him where you should sow your seed so that you can be a blessing to others. As you do, He’ll continue to pour out His blessing and abundance on you, and you will live fulfilled and satisfied all the days of your life.
Written by Joel Osteen
Right on schedule, actually a little early, the phone rang informing me the small Bongo truck had pulled up outside my apartment complex. I instructed him to pull into the first floor of our parking structure, where I would be to meet him. Quickly changing from my uniform into some work clothes, I dashed down stairs to find a suitable place for the Bongo truck to park while we loaded the boxes. Seeing me, the driver of the Bongo truck exited the vehicle, with a big smile on his face, the somewhat younger man stretched out his hand to greet me. My first impression of him was very good. Having only called him a couple of days before to inform of the boxes arrival, he was more than anxious to schedule a time as soon as possible for this meeting. Elaine back at Operation Give headquarters had arranged for FedEx to ship the 39 boxes directly to me in preparation for this event. Having previously discussed the nature of this visit and the children we would be helping, Elaine and Steve spent hours making sure the boxes were filled with exactly what was needed. As usual FedEx delivered the boxes right on schedule, even promptly keeping the scheduled time for the delivery driver to arrive at my apartment two days before. Grabbing two shopping carts from the small supermarket in the basement, the Bongo driver and I headed up the elevator to my apartment where the humanitarian supplies were patiently waiting. Loading the shopping cart as high as we could, we made several trips until the boxes were all carefully loaded into the truck.
With the arrival of Sgt Qualls from my office, my cohort in crime, the three of us loaded up in the small cab of the Bongo to make our way through the congested rush hour traffic of Seoul. Heading southeast we crossed the Han River and zigzagged through cars and pedestrians, finally heading up a steep narrow road lined with parked cars on both sides. Pulling into the driveway of what appeared to be the local neighborhood Buddhist church (they really don’t have churches, more like someone’s home), I wondered if we had come to the right place, as I read the banner overhead welcoming the return of Buddha.
I was relieved to see that we had parked across the street from our final destination. With one narrow house after another stacked almost on top of each other, separated only by a shared brick wall, I could tell we were in what would be considered to be a lower-income-housing neighborhood. Large metal gates adorned the front of each house, preventing unwanted quests from entering the homes. There was a cross and a church sign on the home/church of the minister we had come to meet. On the sidewall of his property, down the alleyway that separated his church from the home next to him, was a small metal cupboard like door painted in baby colors, with the English words, phonetically written in Korean, Baby Box (I will come back to that in a minute). No sooner had we pulled up then the Minister came out into the street to greet us.
The silver haired nicely dressed Minister politely offered up the customary English then Korean salutations.
Grabbing several boxes each from the bed of the Bongo, we all entered through the metal gate, then up a very steep flight of stairs, where we slipped off our shoes and carried the boxes into the first room on the left. As we entered the structure I could see several middle aged to older women sitting on the floor with Bibles in their laps and a number of children laying about; offering up what sounded like a prayer (we had obviously interrupted their mid-week worship service with the minister). One of the ministers assistants asked politely if it would be ok for them to first finish the worship hour before attending to our business. Finding a location on the floor next to the older patrons SGT Qualls and I sat Indian style as we took part in the worship. With nothing more than a keyboard, a computer and a small projector, the minister, like a one-man-band, conducted the service, played the keyboard, operated the computer, offered up the prayers, and led the singing. The computer screen was projected up on the wall behind the seated minister, for all in the room to follow along as we sang several hymns. As one of the assistants handed us a hymnbook in English for Sgt Qualls, we followed the bouncing ball to the words of the hymns. All the while the children of this disabled/handicapped children’s orphanage lay quietly in their cribs or on the floor of the room we were in; playing with small toys, or just lay enjoying the Minister’s music and prayers. One child, perhaps 9 or so, sat upright in a wheel chair the whole time without making a peep, as one of the ladies sat next to him holding his foot in the palm of her hand.
After the service we all moved into the first room where the boxes had been nicely stacked. With all the children of the house gathered around, which included the child in the wheel chair, one small child missing a hand, several Down Syndrome children, and others, all obviously anxious, one by one we opened the boxes. Handing each child a soft stuffed animal, we proceeded to review with the Minister the contents of each box. With the same enthusiasm of Christmas morning, we showed the children what we had brought for them. Knowing these gifts of toys, blankets, new-born bay supplies, clothes, and stuffed animals was not going to make an overall difference in the daily lives of these children, we still relished in the spirit and excitement of the children and we were grateful to be able to do this much. It was an emotional moment for all of us in the room; as we enjoyed the sweet spirit of the children.
After taking a few group photos, the minister took us up
another steep flight of stairs to view the three children, who due to a stroke at birth were completely paralyzed. It was heart wrenching to say the least and at times difficult to view, as one by one we touched their foreheads, spoke to them and saw their reactions. Our hearts ached for them, as we contemplated their existence. With the sun setting and evening quickly passing, we explained we needed to get back to our homes. Down the stairs, out the door and around the side of the house, the minister then took us over to the Baby Box I spoke of in the beginning. Grabbing the handle and opening the latch, he showed us the box, lined with what appeared to be a thin soft blanket and lit with one light bulb, the box was approximately the size of a small suitcase.
He explained that whenever a mother feels she is unable to provide the needed care for a special baby, with special needs, for whatever reason, she would anonymously drop the baby in the box for them to care for. So far the minister has taken in 68 babies. As we drove back in the cab of the Bango truck we couldn’t help but quietly reflect on the experience we had just been a part of. It was so sad. Silently I offered up a prayer for the children and for those special people who are dedicating their lives to the care of those children. May God bless them. Chief Wiggles. “Doing it the wiggles way”
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Missing my Children:
Due to a number of extenuating circumstances a few weeks have passed since I have been able to write in my blog. I apologize to any out there who might have become accustomed to hearing from me through this medium and vow to do better in the future. Fortunately this evening I have been able to dedicate enough time to perhaps bring you up to speed on what has been going on in our lives here in South Korea, the land of the morning calm, as it is often referred to.
With all that has been going on over in Korea in my new assignment in G9 Civil Affairs and for that matter in my life over the past couple of years, I have hardly had time to catch my breath. With hardly a break in-between my last deployment to Iraq and my new military assignment here, it seems that I have been on a perpetual ride, traveling through one culture and place in time to another. I was home for only a little over a month before I had to jump on another plane flying me the other way around the world, to a place so different in every way from Iraq.
Without boring some of you who already know the situation of my travels here, I have to say that coming here at this time in my life, under these circumstances, has been nothing short of a miracle and now in hindsight I can see that it was definitely meant to be. Unfortunately for my family, this personal journey of mine has come with its sacrifices and challenges, forcing me to be away from all of them for long periods of time. At some point I hope they will understand how necessary of a separation it has been for me personally.
I do miss them deeply and think about them every day of my life, no matter how busy or preoccupied I might be. For the sake of my own sanity, I am forced at times to get caught up in my work, so as not to be constantly worrying about their wellbeing. The flame of my love for each of them burns brightly, never flickering or dimming and I can only hope they each know that. In that I have the least amount of contact with my daughter Dana and her daughter Katella, I can honestly say I yearn for them the most, wishing they would take the time to send me an email or call me more often.
Fortunately, two of my sons, Matthew and Michael with his family, have been able recently to spend some time visiting us here in South Korea and my third son, Daniel, will be flying over sometime next week, if all goes well. It has made a huge difference to all of us to be able to spend some quality time together, in their mother’s homeland. They all appear to have gained many new insights into the culture their Mother grew up in and perhaps a better understanding of why she is the way she is.
The Boys are in Town:
A Day on the DMZ
The bus pulled away from the Dragon Hotel inside the confides of the US army base we refer to as Yong San, or Dragon Hill. It was early, the air still quite cool from the lack of sunlight the night before, the weather of Korea still not sure if it has decided to be spring or not. With a certain amount of excitement and perhaps trepidation of the unknown (for those that had not been there before), we headed north to the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone, less than an hour away. With Grandmother, my wife, watching the baby back at the house, the four of us, my two sons and Michael’s wife Kaitlin, were looking forward to a full day of touring the DMZ, the line separating North and South Korea. In a state of continual armistice, for the past 60 years the line of demarcation has separated these two countries, one a totalitarian, single-party Stalinist dictatorship and the other a thriving democratic/capitalistic state, now one of the top ten economies in the world.
With a plate full of KimBap and a few other Korean goodies to tide us over, we ventured on to catch a glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the line and to better understand what it might be like to have an enemy so close to Seoul, one of the largest cities in the world.
Within a few minutes we had left the urban sprawl of Seoul, traveling into more rural surroundings, out in the countryside of rice fields, small villages, and densely forested mountains. Our tour guide came on the intercom to inform us we had passed through the southern boundary of the DMZ, into no-mans land, populated mostly by migrating birds who have transformed this area into their own private refuge or sanctuary.
Looking across the DMZ, northward, one could easily notice the striking contrast between the treeless mountains of the north and the thickly forested mountains of the south. After many years of drought, floods, and a shortage of heating fuel for those many freezing cold North Korean winter nights, the North Koreans have been forced to cut down any available trees to heat their wood and warm their homes.
Moving northward through the DMZ, towards Pan Mun Jpm, our tour guide welcomed us to Camp Bonifas.
“Camp Bonifas is a United Nations Command military post located 400 meters south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It is 2400 meters south of the military demarcation line and lies within the Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjom. The Military Demarcation Line (or 38th Parallel) forms the border between South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).
Camp Bonifas is home to the United Nations Command Security Battalion- Joint Security Area, whose primary mission is to monitor and enforce the Armistice Agreement of 1953 between North and South Korea. Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers (known as “security escorts”) conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Program tours of the JSA and surrounding areas. The camp has a gift shop which sells DMZ- and JSA-related souvenirs.
The camp, formerly known as Camp Kitty Hawk, was renamed on August 18, 1986, in honor of U.S. Army Captain Arthur G. Bonifas (posthumously promoted to major), who along with 1LT Mark T. Barrett, were killed by North Korean soldiers in the “Axe Murder Incident”.
There is a par 3 one-hole “golf course” at the camp, which includes an Astroturf green and is surrounded on three sides by minefields. Sports Illustrated called it “the most dangerous hole in golf” and there are reports that at least one shot exploded a land mine.
Kevin Sullivan of The Washington Post reported in 1998 that Camp Bonifas was a “small collection of buildings surrounded by triple coils of razor wire just 440 yards south of the DMZ” that, were it not for the minefields and soldiers, would “look like a big Boy Scout camp.”
Our bus pulled up to a large granite building, our guide referred to as the Freedom house, through which we walked in order to see the small blue-roofed buildings of PanMunJom, where the Military Armistice Commission still periodically hold talks with North Korea.
One travel guide on the Internet put it this way,
“Once you have been given your guest badge you are driven the short distance to Panmunjom itself. Until the 1950′s this was a small farming hamlet, nowadays the village has been replaced by some grand buildings surrounding three blue huts. In all honesty, there is nothing of real interest to see here, what you’re paying for is the chance to see the Cold War at full freeze. From the marching North Korean guards looking at you through binoculars to the South Korean elite troops with mirrored sunglasses (for extra intimidation) and dozens of chains swinging from their trousers(to fool the North Koreans that there are more soldiers around than there really are) this is a one-off experience. Of particular note is the P’anmun-gak building on the North Korean side of the JSA. Built in 1969 on the highest point of elevation in Panmunjom, this is a full one meter wider than its equivalent Freedom House(built by the South Koreans in 1965). An ornate looking three-story building with huge windows, P’anmungak is nothing but an elaborate facade with a depth of only six meters.
You’ll be taken from Freedom House into the hut where the Military Armistice Commission still periodically hold talks. If you saw the episode of ‘Full Circle’ in which Michael Palin came here then you’ll already be familiar with the interior of the hut(a table is situated in the middle of the room with flags at both ends and microphone cables-denoting the border between North and South-running across the centre). If you remember the contents of the program you’ll also be more than vaguely aware of the speech the escort makes after you crowd around the table: “Those of you on my left are now in the Communist North Korea, while those of you on my right are relatively safe in the Democratic South”. Under the watchful eye of two South Korean soldiers you are then free to cross the border by walking around the right hand side of the table. Throughout, the soldiers remain still in an extremely menacing looking Taekwondo stance.
One funny story that sums up the atmosphere at the Armistice meetings relates to the respective flags of the two nations: One day, a flag was brought in by one side that was larger than the flag of the other. At the next meeting, this smaller flag was replaced by a flag larger than the at of the other side. On alternate meeting days, the respective sides brought in continually larger flags until they were finally too big to get into the building. Only then were the flags limited to their present size.
Before you leave the JSA you’ll also get a chance to see the North Korean community called “Propaganda Village” by the US. It’s a long distance away but you should be able to make out a number of high-rise buildings (hollow structures complete with painted windows we were told) as well as the world’s largest flag. Hung from a 160 meter tall flagpole, and proportionately large-the flag is so heavy that it tears in half whenever it rains. Apparently, the only sign of life in the village is the man who comes to take it down at the first sign of rainfall!
Of course, as with all things in this place, what one side does the other tries to do better. In this vein, you’ll be driven past Taesong-dong (termed “Freedom Village”) on your way back to Camp Boniface. Home to 200 inhabitants, the villagers are exempt from all taxes and national military service and farm an average of 17 acres of land (as opposed to 3 in the rest of the country). To live here your family had to have resided in Panmunjom prior to the outbreak of the Korean War.
One Very Unusual Thing Happened:
As we stood on the back steps of the Freedom House, looking past the several small huts of PanMun Jom, across the actual line of demarcation, towards the tall three-story building façade of P’anmungak, for the first time ever from my several trips, a crowd of North Koreans, mostly in military attire, had gathered on the steps on their side, appearing to be having their own tour of the DMZ. Then suddenly, two North Korean guards turned and marched towards the other side in traditional North Korean fashion, arms swinging side to side and legs thrust out in front of them step by step. It was definitely a first for me.
Entering the main blue-roofed building, we were actually able to see the negotiating table, which is split in half as the line of demarcation actually travels straight through the table, allowing you to stand in South Korea then move to the other side of the table to step foot in North Korea. All the time North Korean guards were peering in at us through the glass windows on the North Korean side. It was quite a treat for all of us there that day.
A Day at the Orphanage:
In hopes of delivering a large box of Tupperware toys donated by Tupperware Sales Agents back home, when my son Michael and his wife Kaitlin were in town, I had saved up these toys for such a special occasion. Taking advantage of their presence in South Korea, we picked a time one afternoon, to travel over to the orphanage to make the special delivery.
Through the steep winding backstreets from our house to South Mountain, we made our way over to the South Mountain orphanage. Up a hill and past a large somewhat famous girls high school, we finally entered the gates of the orphanage. At first glance it was a small but clean compound of several buildings, a few buildings obviously living quarters for the 60 some children ages 0 through 20. Aware of our approximate arrival, a small greeting party had gathered in front of the main office.
After being ushered into what appeared to be the main office, we met with the Managing Director and his staff, who at once proceeded to give us a tour of the facility, along with introducing us, at each step of the way, to the children living on the grounds. Arriving at cleaning time, we were able to witness first hand the well-behaved, well-mannered and disciplined nature of the children.
Our first stop was to the nursery where some 7 or 8 infants, ages 6 months to 16 months, had been placed to receive the mostly infant toys we had brought. Somewhat in awe of our unusual appearance and anxious to play with the toys, all of the infants remained relatively quite and well behaved. My own granddaughter, Maleah, was quick to jump into the middle of the others to help out in distributing the toys, not fully ware herself what was going on.
They were all so adorable, but yet for one reason or another had been abandoned by their biological mother and father. With no hope for adoption, the children are destined to be raised by the orphanage staff, who do their best I am sure to offer each child as much love and attention as is humanly possible. Each child is allowed to stay at the facility until they are able to graduate from college or decide to leave after high school.
It was a very special day for all of us, especially for my son and daughter-in-law, who were responsible for sending the toys to us in the first place. The children were all so wonderful, it was hard to leave when the time came. We were grateful to have been able to share a little bit of happiness with those very special children.
Love to All
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
The General was in town:
The landscape of leafless trees and brown winter foliage flashed past my window as we sped along the tracks at around 180 mph. Enjoying the more spaciously situated larger chairs of KTX’s first class, I sat comfortably enjoying the companionship of General Tarbet, the Adjutant General for the state of Utah. He has been my long time friend, who personally requested that I tag (no pun intended, only military people will get this one) along with him during his whirlwind two-day trip to Seoul, South Korea. I have known him since he was a 1st Lt and he has actually been my commander in one capacity or another to send me off on my three deployments to the Middle East. But I won’t hold that against him, given the overall outcomes of those life-changing mobilizations.
In the Korean’s version of the bullet train, the three of us sat along one row, with plenty of style, legroom, comfort and the occasional snack cart, we traveled the one hour and fifty minutes from Seoul to Daegu. All of this made for easy conversation, the sporadic cat nap and of course there was plenty of time for the customary barrage of sarcastic jabs and bantering. I personally truly enjoy General Tarbet’s great sense of humor and his no frills leadership style.
Looking out the train window I thought for a moment I was back in 1971, making my way by train from Seoul to Daegu (spelled Taegu back then), as a missionary with my transfer in hand, in route to meet up with Greg Newby, my new companion. The train was must slower then and the living conditions drastically different, but the country side, the mountains were still basically the same. The steep mountains and terraced hillsides, with numerous small villages nestled up into every ravine and narrow valley, reminded me of the many memorable moments I have spent over the years out with the country/farm people of Korea.
With its old style Hanok homes, terraced rice fields, and unique calmness and solitude, the countryside of South Korea has always had a certain allure and magnetism to me. Also, with out a doubt the country folk are definitely different in many ways from city folk, still exemplifying a special humbleness that attracted me back in the 70’s and still does.
“Hanok is a term to describe Korean traditional houses. Korean architecture lends consideration to the positioning of the house in relation to its surroundings, with thought given to the land and seasons.
The interior structure of the house is also planned accordingly. This principle is also called Baesanimsu (배산임수), literally meaning that the ideal house is built with a mountain in the back and a river in the front, with the ondol heated rock system for heating during cold winters and a wide daecheong (대청) front porch for keeping the house cool during hot summers.
Houses differ according to region. In the cold northern regions of Korea, houses are built in a closed square form to retain heat better. In the central regions, houses are ‘L’ shaped. Houses in the southernmost regions of Korea are built in an open ‘I’ form. Houses can also be classified according to class and social status.”
Before I knew it the train was pulling into East Daegu, our stop, forcing us to gather up our few belongings in preparation to jump off the train, of course after it stops. No sooner had we exited the train then we spotted our welcoming committee, who whisked us away in their waiting van, off to where the troops were already setting up for the training exercise. With a large contingent of soldiers from Utah in country, the General was here to just say hi and shake as many hands as possible.
Once at K2, a joint Korean/American military base in the center of Daegu, our escorts drove us over to the location of our Utah soldiers, the focus of the General’s visit. Having been the Adjutant General for the state of Utah for the past 12 years, General Tarbet has a great reputation and rapport with the soldiers and has a personal relationship with many of them, which became very evident once he got amongst the troops to interact with each and every one of them. After a short introductory briefing regarding the mission and operational goals and objectives, and a great meal offered up in the US DIFAC (dining facility), we were off to the train and on our way back to Seoul.
Having spent several years away on deployments with the military, my wife has been able to also develop a good friendly relationship with General Tarbet, who has always had an opened door policy with her. During difficult times during my absence she has sought his advice on numerous occasions and of course to jokingly get after him for sending me away to war three times.
Arriving back into Seoul much earlier than expected and with some extra time on his hands and a desire to hook up later with my wife and I for a night out on the town, he requested I return in a couple of hours. This allowed him to crash in his room for a bit, as he attempted to get caught up on his sleep. As requested my wife and I, as his personal escort service, with him in tow, took him and the Command Sergeant Major to a local restaurant affording them the opportunity to enjoy a typical Korean dinner, before his departure early the next morning. It turned out to be one of the better meals we have had, introducing the General to a number of new flavors, which he took to quite easily. I was very impressed.
Paladins the day before:
Having arrived late Wednesday night and on a tight schedule leaving early Saturday morning, the General didn’t have any time to waste. With another group of troops up north of Seoul on the live fire range, early Thursday morning we took off to witness the actual shooting of live rounds from the M109 Paladins the 155 m self propelled gun (Google).
With the hatch swung open, a hand from inside the Paladin motioned for me to enter inside to join the other crewmembers already positioned to perform their duties. I gracefully crawled through the open hatch of the large mobile howitzer, as only a 60-year-old soldier can, to find the 4-crew members preparing for the live fire demonstration. Each with their respective duties and responsibilities, they handed me the short length of rope and hook system used to fire off each round. With ear plugs tightly jammed into my ear canals and with great anticipation, when called upon to do so, I hooked the loop and yanked the rope as one round after another fired off, launching a projectile some 2 or 3 miles away to smash into its target. This was my first time ever to be in a Paladin, so up close and personal, and oh what a thrill. The sounds, the boom, the smell of gunpowder, wow, big toys for men.
Bringing you all Current:
Our Trip to Kyushu, the rest of the story:
A few weeks ago, with the coldness of winter still frozen to us like frost on a metal pipe, we decided to take a short weekend excursion to Japan for a couple of days. Having weathered most of what we thought to be a historically cold winter of humid South Korea, we longed for a short vacation to Japan, where we had been some 30 years before. Advertised as a hot spring tour in the southern volcanic Island of Kyushu Japan, we had thoughts of sitting in the warmth of a natural hot springs, sipping cold drinks amidst the coolness of a Japanese winter. It didn’t quite turn out that way but it ended up being a most memorable break away.
Having decided to leave just a few days before, we didn’t have a lot of options to choose from; even so we were excited for the experience. We booked it through a travel agency, not wanting to have to worry about hotels, transportation and such, deciding to go with one of the more reliable travel agencies in the Seoul area.
With 36 other people on the same tour, a tour-guide with us the entire trip and not too much at stake, we took off from Incheon International Airport. With the sheer number of people traveling on the various tour groups that day and the orderly fashion in which it was all managed, we were totally impressed with how the Koreans have this mode of travel down to a science. With tickets in hand, our middle-aged somewhat taller than average Korean female tour guide greeted us at the Hanna Travel check-in counter.
In a short hour, no sooner had we taken off, had a quick sandwich lunch and a drink, then word came over the intercom system to prepare for our landing in Kumamoto, Japan, where our tour was to begin. Through Japanese customs and on to the bus, we took off on our two-night 3-day Hot Spring tour of Kyushu Japan.
Somewhat removed from the crowded hustle bustle of the more populated areas of Japan, Kyushu would be regarded as more of a rural setting where mostly senior citizens reside. With the trend for the younger generations to move to Tokyo, Kumamoto appears to be more of a retirement community, made up of original residents or transplanted seniors in search of a slower life style.
As only the Japanese seem to be able to do, the streets, the sidewalks and the side roads were all clean and orderly, just as I remembered them to be. There is a certain calmness and tranquility even in the busiest cities, where order and peaceful coexistence is stressed above all else. Not much has changed, as the Japanese chose to leave things as they were, ignoring any urge to redevelop the areas with large apartment complexes and high rise office buildings. Quite on the contrary, the Japanese have a reverence for leaving their surroundings in place, opting to have smaller homes and mini-sized cars. You only have to go out to eat to any Japanese restaurant to realize the value they place on smaller is better.
With the ocean as the backdrop and volcano shaped mountains filling the landscape, one can see clouds of steam rising up through the thick green foliage as steam and vapors are released through out the area. Visions of settling down into the warmth of a natural hot spring filled my head, until I realized that the naturally heated water is merely piped into a public bathhouse inside the hotels that we stayed in. Not being too fond of public bathing, regardless of the quality of the water, I opted out of the hot spring bathing the first night, but succumb to the pressure to at least check it out the second night.
Along with ancient temples, hot pots, active volcanoes, old cities, shopping areas, and beautiful scenic landscapes, we spent time just relaxing and being together. Once the sunset each evening the time was pretty much ours to spend as we saw fit and of course that meant eating. Surprisingly enough, the Japanese food was quite good.
In the course riding around in a large tour bus with 36 other Koreans, we grew close to a couple other like-minded people, whom we exchanged stories and daily dialogue with. One particular couple took an unexpected liking to both of us and has made an effort to stay connected to us many times since that initial meeting on the tour. I will tell you more about this friendship in my next blog.
Rather then bore you with any more details regarding our trip to Japan; I will finish my travel blog of this trip with pictures of the beauties of Japan.
Thanks, keep smiling