Dashed hopes of the Iraqi people:
Why did we leave them so unsecured and unprotected?
As disturbing news reports continue to flow out of Iraq, regarding the current situation there, I can’t help but remember the faces of all the people I met and worked with on my last deployment. Flashbacks of all the wonderful times and miraculous events there fill my head, as I think of how encouraged we were for their future. With our efforts to build community, establish small businesses, provide training/education, and maintain security, there was a real feeling of hope for a brighter future for Iraq and it’s people.
After many years of fighting, hundreds of lives lost and countless hours working to build a new democratic Iraq, for the first time we, as American soldiers, started to see the positive results of our efforts and sacrifices. I for one, after three deployments there, started to believe again that just maybe it was all worth it. There was hope and you could see it in the people’s eyes.
But, since our complete withdrawal from Iraq this has all but been dashed by the rise of Sunni extremist militants, referred to as ISIS (or DA’ASH, as it is called by many Iraqis), who filled the vacuum left by our departure. The Sunni extremists, ousted by the Iran backed Shiite government, began their own fight to set up an Islamic State, the caliphate, in the northern part of Iraq and western Syria. The insurgents have taken control of the city of Mosul, the vary city I lived in for almost one year and are fighting against Iraqi forces and Peshmerga Kurdish forces on all fronts. And as it is with most conflicts the innocent civilians end up suffering the most.
I continue to receive disturbing emails from close friends in the surrounding areas of ongoing pain and suffering. Friends from the religious minorities in al-Hamdaniya, such as the Christians, the Chaldo-Assyrians, the Yazidis, and the Shabaks, who have all been attacked, systematically killed, displaced, and threatened by the Sunni extremists.
Two of my closest friends the Sheikhs, ( as I referred to them), who I worked with on many community events, were targeted by the ISIS and forced to flee their homes with their families and move deeper within the more secure Kurdish territory near Irbil. I later received reports that their homes were bombed and destroyed, along with everything else they owned.
I received this email from an Iraqi General I worked closely with in Mosul,
“Come back to Iraq to repair the largest possible number of bad things that happened after the liberation of Iraq, and the Iraqi government who receives it’s orders from Iran … there are armed ISIS militias killing people and destroying homes and imprisoning citizens without any crime ..
There has been considerable havoc in the country and U.S. are the cause of your troops … who opened the way for Iran and the ISIS militias to enter and destroy Iraq … is not the liberation of Iraq , but Iraq has been destroyed …..
Most of the former army officers, doctors, engineers and scientists have all escaped out of Iraq, because they are afraid for themselves.
Yet continue daily operations of the assassination by al-Qaeda and ISIS Da’ash…”
As the fighting rages on and more and more innocent civilians suffer and die, one can’t help but think about what we could have done or should have done differently to prevent this terrible tragedy from happening.
Many questions need to be answered.
Knowing the long-lasting historical tension and conflict that exists between the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds, why didn’t’ we force the Iraqi government to be equally split between the three groups, so each group could have proper representation? Why didn’t we leave a security force in place to maintain peace and the status quo? Why did we leave them so unsecured and unprotected? Surely, we thought this would happen didn’t we? We can’t lose everything we gained, after all our efforts and all the lives lost, can we? Surely our smart people in Washington thought of all of this right? What are we going to do now? How much of what we gained will now be lost? How much collateral damage will there be before we do something to stop it?
It began with a Toy:
That was the humble beginnings of Operation Give and as they say the rest is history. We have since that day shipped over 140 forty-foot ocean container loads of toys and other items to children in over 17 different countries. We have continued to focus on giving items to US Soldiers in war-torn countries, who in turn have done exactly as I did that one day, spread love and understanding through the giving of toys to children (and of course shoes, balls, dolls, schools supplies, clothes and other supplies).
Operation Give recently received a video from Brettany L Bailey, who, with her students at the Three Chopt Elementary School, expressed their support for our troops through words, songs / video and pictures.
Click the button below to find out more about Operation Joys With Toys.
Operation Give Wants to Begin A:
Support the Troops Video and Song Writing Contest.
Join in by writing a song and making a video for the troops in Afghanistan. Use the Song and Video with photos of the Project that you selected to do, such as Toys, Soccer Balls, Care Packages, etc. Gather them up and send them free of charge to Operation Give, so we in turn can send them to our soldiers, airmen, seamen and marines serving our country in Afghanistan.
We are willing to give out a $100 I-Tunes gift card for the best song and video. Contest ends end of Aug.
Select videos will be posted on our Facebook and Blog.
We welcome all your songs, videos and of course toys.
They want to make sure the troops know they have not been forgotten.
Check out this link: https://vimeo.com/96251435
More importantly they were sending toys to Operation Give for the troops in Afghanistan, so our men and women serving our country will have things to give the children they come in contact with.
Through these toys our troops will be able to build bridges of love and compassion; spanning cultural differences and language barriers.
Operation GiveMesa Moving & Storage
2275 S 900 W Dock 49
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
Time to Get Busy:
With the monsoon season right around the corner we have sped up our plans for additional humanitarian events during the month of June. It isn’t that we can’t go out during the hot and humid rainy days during the months of July and August, it is just that it is too hot and humid, intermittent with frequent down pours that makes things a little more difficult for both the giver and the receiver. Little by little we have been distributing the humanitarian supplies that arrived in our last container a few months back; with events here and there are as our busy schedules have permitted.
At times we pray for rain; given the terrible air quality that exists here in Seoul. The air is quiet a cocktail of yellow sand and pollution from China, exhaust fumes from millions of cars and buses, manufacturing exhaust from near by factories, with a chaser of 20 million people putting out whatever that many people can expel. It is only after a good rain that we feel like taking in a good big breath of fresh air.
As our good fortune would have it, we (my wife and I) have finally hooked up with Mr. Moon to get all the contents of the container distributed to the right needy people. My wife and I have known him for some time, but it wasn’t until recently that all of us decided to join forces. He was kind enough to handle the customs clearing and final movement of the container’s contents from Incheon harbor to one of his warehouses in Seoul. And being the like-minded individual he is, Mr. Moon has handled all the details in setting up the humanitarian events at different locations around the country.
The Baby Box:
The first one this month was at the Baby Box Orphanage, as I call it. For those of you who have been following my blog you might recall I have written about the “Baby Box” orphanage on two previous occasions. Here is a link if you would like to read more about this; http://youtu.be/p3Te5Mh1EtI
Mr. Moon hadn’t been to the Baby Box orphanage previously, but was interested in donating items after hearing about this orphanage on Korean TV. For good or bad, there has been a certain amount of publicity over the past couple of years both domestically and internationally regarding the Baby Box and the concept behind its creation.
Loaded with some 25 boxes of medical supplies, blankets, clothes, shoes, newborn baby kits and stuffed animals, we made our way through the congested streets of Seoul, Korea following the promptings of the GPS system in our car. Even after having visited the orphanage on previous occasions, I am still not able to find this place without some help.
Located in the middle of a very steep and narrow street, the orphanage appears to be no more than a house in a very crowded neighborhood of homes. It is only once you arrive at the front of the home that you notice the sign out front and the cross on the roof. The home functions as the founder’s private residence, a church (the founder is a minister) and an orphanage. The actual “baby box” is on the exterior wall of the home; you can access down the narrow alley in between the home and the neighboring house.
Due to the position of the house and the steepness of the hill, the only way to enter the three-story home above a narrow garage is up a very steep flight of stairs (which definitely wouldn’t meet building codes anywhere). It is these actual flights of stairs in and outside the home that prevent the orphanage from being registered as a legitimate facility for handicapped children. Even so the minister continues to keep his doors open and continues to accept unwanted handicapped infants.
We were greeted by one of his dedicated workers; who came out to meet us once we pulled up out front in our two vehicles loaded to the gills with supplies. Unfortunately, the minister had been called away and unavailable to meet with us.
With space at a premium at this overcrowded home, we unloaded all the boxes we had brought, placing them in a covered area to the side of the house. To their joy and excitement several other workers appeared from inside the home to assist us in moving the boxes. They were all very excited to see what we had brought the children.
Carrying a couple of the boxes with us, we entered the home and proceeded to show them a sampling of the items we had brought. With excited in their eyes several of the children assisted in opening and taking out the items one by one, of course as any child would went straight for the crayons spilling them all over the floor (All in good fun of course).
In that this was Mr. Moon’s first trip, I made sure that he was given a proper tour of the facility to include the Minister’s own son, now 28 years old, who has not been able to move since birth. It was his own son’s condition at birth that propelled him into setting up the baby box for unwanted children. To date he has taken in over 80 unwanted newborn babies, most of which he has been forced to subsequently turn them over to the state, but he still maintains about 20 children at his home full time.
It is always very difficult for me to not be affected emotionally when visiting the Baby Box orphanage. These children really pull on your heartstrings with their tender looks and simple desire for love and affection. We were all very glad to be able to provide the supplies we did, knowing they would all come in handy in the days to come.
Learning to Read and Write for the first time:
Right on schedule Mr. Moon pulled up to the front of our high-rise apartment complex to pick my wife and I up for our next humanitarian event or adventure. As usual everything was set up and prepared ahead of time and all we had to do was show up. I love it when a plan comes together and all the heavy lifting has been done by others before hand (just kidding).
We were headed to a humanitarian center in one of the smaller suburbs of Seoul for an event that proved to be quite unexpectedly touching and thought provoking. I had been told somewhat ahead of time what we were doing, but perhaps it hadn’t really sunk in. I guess the whole concept was so beyond my imagination that I really didn’t give it much thought.
After about 50 minutes of weaving in and out of the traffic of the city, we arrived in front of a large, what appeared to be, office building complex and from the looks of things it seemed to be relatively new. But, once I entered the complex I realized it was a large community center with programs of all types for all ages of people.
Several individuals were there to greet us and guide us into the director’s conference room, where she was waiting. With a warm hello and a hardy handshake the director motioned for us to have a seat. She obviously spoke English and informed us that she received her PHD from a University in Alabama, even so we continued for the remainder of the visit speaking in Korean.
She made us aware of the nature of the facility, touching on a number of the programs they offer for different age groups, but focused mainly on the program we were there to take part in. After a few minutes of pleasantries we proceeded upstairs to a large room where a sizable group of mostly elderly women had gathered. On our way upstairs she paused in front of the welcome sign for Mr. Moon’s organization and Operation Give, mentioning that we would have time to take pictures in front of this sign later on our way out.
To my surprise this was the graduation ceremony for some 200 elderly individuals, 60 plus years and older, who had just completed a course teaching them how to read and write Korean for the first time. For some reason these individuals, due to a variety of circumstances, had not been able to attend school when they were young. They had lived all these years not knowing how to read and write their own language.
Now you might not think much of this, but given how important education is to most Koreans and given how advanced their education program is; it is hard to imagine that these people have just been lost in the system all these years. Most of them grew up during the years following the Korean War and most likely, due to financial circumstances, were forced to stay home rather than attending school. For one reason or another, except for one sole male, all of the students were women.
I could sense the excitement in the air as we went through the graduation program. In traditional Korean formal fashion, ever thing going according to the planned schedule, with every “t” crossed and “I” dotted. As we moved into the awards portion of the program, Mr. Moon and I were called upon to assist in passing out the awards to the distinguished graduates. It was quite an honor and a privilege to be able to participate in acknowledging their accomplishments.
With the items we brought we were able to pass out a school kit bag to every student and even had extras for the next class of individuals desiring to learn how to read. Like school kids at lunchtime, they were each so excited to receive their bag full of school supplies. It was as if they were finally able to close that chapter they missed so many years ago, now able to read and write for the first time. I am sure you could say that this was on their bucket list and had been for a long time.
At the end of the program I was asked to stand up and speak to the group for a few minutes. At first they were totally surprised by the fact that I could speak Korean, the director having prepared for an interpreter to be on hand if necessary. Along with the other things I mentioned to them, I made a point of indicating that now, having learned how to read and write, the path ahead for them to continue studying has been prepared for them. We all made a commitment to continue with our studies for many years to come.
A large banner hung at the back of the stage thanking Operation Give for our support in providing each of the students a school kit supply bag. Well-done Operation Give. Thanks for making this possible.
“Doing it the wiggles way”
Smiles at Seoul Station:
With the cold chill of winter well behind us and all the flowers and trees of South Korea in full bloom, I once again am motivated to begin again with the distribution of our latest container load of humanitarian supplies. For me spring always brings a new beginning and a renewed vigor to resume my work of helping those in need. Even though it has only been a couple of months since our last event, it seems to me like I have been out of commission for some time. With our second largest simulation training exercise in February and March, it seems like I have been extremely business since the new year began, just now able to catch my breath long enough to begin anew with our efforts to distribute the contents of the container we worked so hard to get through customs and moved over to a warehouse new by.
Each day as I drive around the streets near my 17th story apartment I call home, I am reminded of the plight of the homeless individuals that hang out around the Seoul train station. The station is only a mile or so from my apartment and according to the experts there are some 500 individuals that live in and around the area. Just down from the station, not even a block away, is a humble church set up in an old crowded 4-story building, that serves as a shelter for some 300 homeless individuals.
For some time I have been speaking with Bobby, a like-minded friend of mine, about what we might do to help these people. We have discussed different ideas and options; just have not taken the time to actually formulate a plan. So with supplies ready to move in our temporary warehouse, I just decided to pick a day and make a delivery.
A week or so ago, I dropped by the church to speak with the young minister that runs the shelter to discuss my idea and to decide on a date. He was more than willing to oblige and we selected the following Sunday (which was last week Sunday) as the best time, right after Sunday service at 1430 (2:30 for you non-military types).
I spoke with my good friend and cohort, Mr. Moon, who owns the warehouse space we are using, and gained his support for the activity. Sunday finally came and as planned Mr. Moon showed up with his caravan of three vehicles full of friends and family members who volunteered to help us make the deliver. Counting mine, with my wife and I, we had four vehicles full of boxes of supplies selected specifically for the homeless, mostly men, who frequent the Seoul station church.
As if connected by some invisible chain, down the streets of Seoul we traveled weaving in and out of traffic, as we headed to the church to make the delivery. Pulling up front our team of volunteers went into action, pulling out all of the boxes of humanitarian supplies. One by one, at the direction of the Minister, we carried the boxes some going up stairs and others downstairs, as we separated the items between what we were going to pass out that day and those that we going to be left in storage until needed.
As my wife and I walked in off the street into the main floor of the building, the minister was just wrapping up his Sunday service. The room was his temporary chapel, that afterwards quickly re-transformed into a waiting room for some 50 homeless to sit and rest their weary bones. The minister’s office was just to the right as you walked in; which looked more like a DJ’s sound box, surrounded by see-through Plexiglas. There he had set up a small folding table, one chair, and several small screens that enabled him to see what was going on in all the other rooms of the building.
As before he greeted me with a big smile and a hardy handshake, welcoming us to his humble church. He quickly set things up for us to begin passing out the 300-plus hygiene kits that had been lovely prepared by Rose Ann and her group back home and carefully packed in the container by Elaine and the other Operation Give team members. Each kit contained a bar or two of soap, a small hand towel, toothpaste and toothbrush and other personal hygiene items.
One by one the 300 or so homeless men walked down the stairs and passed our team of volunteers to receive a kit. With outstretched arms and a soft thank you, each person graciously received a hygiene kit. Greeting each of them with dignity in Korean we wished them well and hoped they would make good use of the items in the kit. They were all very well mannered and well behaved, with kit in hand, as they orderly made their way back up stairs to resume their daily routine.
All the members of our team, even the children took part in the activity and enjoyed the experience of helping those in need. All involved felt the spirit of giving and witnessed the joy that even the smallest of things can bring to someone in need. The children’s parent all commented later fon how grateful they were that their children we able to take part in this event, hoping this would be a lasting memory for them.
Afterwards we all reconvened back up in one of the rooms on the third floor, around one the folding tables, over drinks and cake that the minister’s wife had set up. We discussed what we might do in the future; exploring a couple of ideas Bobby and I had come up with. I had the minister explain to our group of volunteers some of the details about the individuals who frequent the shelter and to discuss a few of the programs they offer to their visitors. We finished our meeting with a quick visit to the garden area on the roof, where some of the homeless were nurturing the squash and pepper plants.
In addition to the hygiene kits, we left a few boxes of blankets for the 50-plus homeless who sleep there every night, 5 boxes of disposable razors for those who would like to shave and a couple boxes of Crocs slippers.
With our hearts full of joy and thankfulness, filled by the spirit of giving, all made possible by our Operation Give team back in the states, we said our goodbyes and returned to our vehicles, promising to do this again soon.
“Doing it the Chief Wiggles way
Living in a land that celebrates Christmas as a day off, but has little in the way of lights and decorations indicating Christmas is near, it has been difficult for my wife and I this year to get in the Christmas spirit. It is quite cold out, but there is no snow and consequently there are no signs of snowmen, or reindeer, or sleighs. As of yet, aside from the occasional frigid northern wind, there has been no frost, or ice icicles, or any other signs of a cold winter night. And more than anything there haven’t been any children around anxiously awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus with his traditional mound of Christmas gifts all piled under a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
But that all changed once the 6,500 plus Christmas Stockings from Operation Give arrived via FedEx last Friday. It is amazing how a little Christmas giving can change your mood and your attitude and quickly bring in the Christmas cheer; as we, along with about 50 helpers from the USO, hit the pavement to deliver stockings to young single soldiers stationed here in South Korea. Divided into teams, each with our building assignments, we packed up the boxed stockings into our cars to begin the final leg of Operation Christmas Stocking.
I mentioned to my wife that it really didn’t feel like Christmas until we started passing out the Christmas Stockings and then the smiles on the faces changed that.
From origins all over the US, to the Operation Give consolidation Warehouse in Salt Lake City, to the FedEx planes and trucks, to a USO warehouse in South Korea and many to a warehouse in Afghanistan, the stockings have been on quite a journey. Now on their final mile, the boxes and boxes of wonderful Christmas stockings were now ready to be placed into the gracious and appreciative outstretched hands of a US soldier, airmen, or marine.
Stockings being readied for shipment to our Troops in Afghanistan
It is really a fantastic experience to be on the receiving end and to be able to participate in the actual hand off of the stockings to an unsuspecting service man or women. They are in awe, so surprised and so appreciative of the thoughtfulness of so many American people who have helped to make this possible. One soldier put it into words as he was trying to explain what had just happened to one of his fellow soldiers, as he stated, “ I was so shocked to have received a Christmas Stocking from back home, delivered by a CW5”.
Another soldier stated, “Thanks again for what you do. It’s fine Americans like you and your organization that really makes it easier for us to get through this time of year.
Door by door and room by room, with as many stockings as we could carry, our little group went through our assigned barracks, knocking on doors and passing out Christmas Stockings to as many soldiers as we could find. For some soldiers who were obviously still at work, we placed sufficient stockings by their door in hopes they would receive them when they return.
Starting that Friday and every day since, right up to Christmas day, we have been passing out stockings to soldiers in barracks and offices, to soldiers manning their posts, to gate guards and to security personnel, to military police, and to soldiers in the hospital. Even to those military personnel in my own high-rise living off post and to soldiers in other bases around Korea, we have been able to successfully distribute perhaps 6,500 stuffed Christmas Stockings.
Wishing all a Merry Christmas and spreading glad tidings of good cheer, we have helped bring a slice of Christmas to all those serving our nation far from home during this Christmas Season.
My personal thanks go out to all of you who helped make this year’s Operation Christmas stocking a huge success. What started some 8 years ago continues on as so many great Americans back home continue to support this effort. Let me just say that the stockings we really amazing this year; with such great stuff and so many items jammed into the stockings (many were literally bursting at the seams).
One email specifically that touched my heart, really exemplifies what this is all about as she stated,
It’s my pleasure to donate to such a worthy cause. My donation is on behalf of my niece Elizabeth, a sophomore in high school. She asked for the family to donate to good causes (yours was one she chose) instead of buying her presents this year. She has a great heart.
Dear Operation Give,
“I would just like to thank you all for the amazing stocking that my husband received from you all in S. Korea. It was so thoughtful of you all to think of the soldiers overseas away from their families at the holiday’s. We really do appreciate the support and the gesture. Just wanted you all to know how much the soldiers appreciated being thought of this time of year.
Thanks again…Lynne Blake”
God bless you all and a very happy Merry Christmas.
Check out the photos of our activities.
“Doing it the Wiggles Way”
As Christmas nears and we approach the most joyous and for many of us the most sacred time of the year, it is easy for all of us to get caught up in the fever of shopping, buying gifts for our loved ones and friends, and making all the necessary preparations to make for the perfect Christmas. We become lost in our thoughts for those around us and in all the Christmas events that will be transpiring. We offer up friendly greetings and wish each other a Merry Christmas and customarily express a feeling of “Peace on Earth, good will to men.”
But how often do we think of our men and women who once again, for the tenth Christmas in a row, will be spending the holidays in foreign battlefields or deployed in far away lands where peace on earth and good will to men are just trite sayings not relevant thoughts for the reality of life in a war zone. Our nation continues to be at war and we still have tens of thousands of our heroes stationed in bases all over the world, who will be spending yet another Christmas in harm’s way, far from home, far from their loved ones. And what of their loved ones, the fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, husbands or wives who will spend yet another lonely Christmas remembering, praying, and crying for their service men and women?
Many might ponder for a moment the plight of those serving our nation in foreign lands and maybe offer up some touching words, well-meant but over used sayings that express their most sincere admiration, gratitude, sorrow and well wishes for our troops. But these moments of sincere reflection and thoughts for our troops are fleeting at best and short lived as the hectic nature of the season consumes us all.
I am sure many of you have asked yourself, “What can I do that would really make difference to those men and women serving in the military?”, “How do I reach out to them to let them know they haven’t been forgotten?”. The opportunity for each of you asking these questions to find an answer is given through Operation Give, in Operation Christmas Stocking.
There Is A Way:
For the eighth year in a row, all of us at Operation Give have been able, through Operation Christmas Stocking, to share a slice of Christmas with thousands of our Brothers and Sisters serving in the military, in Iraq, Afghanistan and even in South Korea, where I am currently serving.
Due to the generosity of thousands of like minded Americans, who have donated stockings and/or have donated items to be stuffed in stockings, every year thousands of service men and women have felt the joy of receiving a Christmas Stocking, full of Christmas goodies and much needed personal items. We at Operation Give and all of the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, and Airmen on the receiving end, deeply appreciate all of the wonderful donations that have helped make Operation Christmas Stocking such an amazing success.
As in years past, this year is no different, with thousands of Christmas stockings already on their way to Afghanistan and South Korea, once again our service men and women, away from home during Christmas, will soon experience the joy a Christmas Stocking can give. With the help of our military and the USO, thousands of Christmas Stockings will be individually delivered and the true meaning of Christmas will be expressed. For the past 4 years, I have personally been on the receiving end and have taken part in the distribution of these Christmas Stockings in Iraq and in South Korea and have witnessed first hand the joy and gratitude expressed by those receiving these stockings.
And it is not too late for you too to be part of Operation Christmas Stocking and participate in someway in expressing your gratitude for their service and to let them know they have not been forgotten. You can do more than offer up empty words, you can be part of Operation Christmas Stocking, by donating much needed funds to help ship all of the stockings over to our troops or to donate additional items to be stuffed in more stockings.
Please act today by contacting Elaine Ward at Operation Give, operationgive.org, or by calling her at 435 512 4956.
It has been said, author unknown, that:
The greatest gift of all is the ‘giving of oneself.’ In giving, the donor receives so much in return: the beauty and grace of seeing a smile on the recipient’s face; the warmth of knowing that somebody has benefited from your generosity; the satisfaction that the world is a little better place from your giving.
I hope you are able to enjoy the beauty of this day with your loved ones. While many of us are truly blessed to be home with family today, let us also remember our brothers and sisters who are far away fighting to protect our freedom and liberties. “THANK YOU.”
Take the time to read this Christmas Tale from long ago,
A Christmas Tale — 1919, The Wall Street Journal, December 2008
By HANS VON SPAKOVSKY
It’s easy to complain in the midst of a stressful holiday season. But my family has a unique remedy: We remember one special Christmas in 1919 that gave us the freedom and liberty we enjoy today. This will be the 89th anniversary of the year my father celebrated Christmas Eve deep in the snow-laden woods of Russia as he fled the Communist takeover of his homeland.
When I tell people that my father was an officer in the White Army who fought the Bolsheviks in the Russian civil war, they usually look at me with disbelief, because I am only 49. But he married and started a family later in life, after he lived through both world wars.
He had been an officer in the Russian Army in World War I; after the Bolshevik putsch he ended up fighting against them in the far north of Russia. In 1919 he was close to the Arctic Circle in the port city of Arkhangelsk, where at the beginning of the year, six feet of snow fell and the temperature was regularly 30 degrees below zero.
The Allies — the English, Americans and French — had put military forces in Russia, including in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, in 1918. When they withdrew in September 1919, the White Army forces faced dire peril: Their source of supplies, including arms, was gone. Many regular soldiers deserted en masse to the Bolsheviks.
As the situation deteriorated, my father and his unit were surrounded. They fought until very few supplies remained. By December, their commander told them that they would soon be unable to continue to fight and that the Bolsheviks had promised that surrendering White forces would be freed and sent home.
But my father knew that the communists shot the officers they captured. The only way he could escape was through the frozen White Sea on the lone icebreaker in the port, which was not large enough to evacuate everyone. Only a small number of high-ranking White Russian officers eventually fled that way.
One woman and 16 men, including my father, decided they would try to get out another way. In the middle of a very snowy night, they skied through the Bolshevik lines toward Finland. As my father later told his five children, it was an arduous and long journey. They had so little food that at one point they were reduced to eating the beeswax candles they carried with them.
They soon ceased to count the days. Time became amorphous as they traveled through the chilling cold of an Arctic winter in the darkness of the deep woods. Their singular goal was to avoid Bolshevik patrols.
On one of those timeless, dark days, my father said, the woman in their group reminded the men of something they had all lost track of — tomorrow would be Christmas Eve.
The next day they skied ’til the beams of the sun turned the treetops golden and the shadows in the forest became longer and longer. They stopped in a small glade for the night, and my father cut down a small fir. They placed some of their remaining candles on its branches and adorned it with blue ribbons cut from a blouse the woman had carried in her knapsack.
With the dark veil of night covering them, they lit the candles and their small pine became a Christmas tree. The scene seemed almost mystical to my father — 17 human beings sitting in the glow of a makeshift Christmas tree in the thicket of a primeval forest. They forgot about the frost of the northern wintry night, their exhaustion, and their anxiety about the future.
No more hatred remained in their hearts, my father told us — only love for God and men alike, friends and enemies. They said a prayer, sang some Christmas hymns, and then sat silently, thinking about what they had lost and were leaving behind, including their families. (My father never saw his mother or his father again.) The candles burned out, and it became dark again around them. (LD’s highlight)
The next day they resumed their journey. Once Christmas had passed, and they did not encounter any Bolshevik patrols, my father felt they had been saved. Two weeks later, they arrived safely in Finland. They had skied hundreds of kilometers through the wilderness in the dead of winter.
My father died in 1988, just short of his 93rd birthday. There is a lot more to his story — great drama, more danger, and adventures that he always said were better to recall as memories than to have lived through. He eventually immigrated to the United States with my mother, whom he met in 1946 in a refugee camp in occupied Germany.
So this Christmas, besides opening presents and singing carols, my family will observe one other tradition. We will drink a toast and give thanks to a man who fled a murderous, cruel dictatorship and gave us a gift more precious than anything else: the chance to grow up in freedom and to enjoy the liberty that is our birthright as Americans. Merry Christmas!
A Soldier’s Christmas Poem: Written by Lance Corporal James M. Schmidt in 1986. Printed in Leatherneck (The Magazines for the Marines) in December 1991.
I Looked All About,
A Strange Sight I Did See,
No Tinsel, No Presents,
Not Even A Tree.
No Stocking By Mantle,
Just Boots Filled With Sand,
On The Wall Hung Pictures
Of Far Distant Lands.
With Medals And Badges,
Awards Of All Kinds,
A Sober Thought
Came Through My Mind.
For This House Was Different,
It Was Dark And Dreary,
I Found The Home Of A Soldier,
Once I Could See Clearly.
The Soldier Lay Sleeping,
Curled Up On The Floor
In This One Bedroom Home.
The Face Was So Gentle,
The Room In Such Disorder,
Not How I Pictured
A United States Soldier.
Was This The Hero
Of Whom I’d Just Read?
Curled Up On A Poncho,
The Floor For A Bed?
I Realized The Families
That I Saw This Night,
Owed Their Lives To These Soldiers
Who Were Willing To Fight.
Soon Round The World,
The Children Would Play,
And Grownups Would Celebrate
A Bright Christmas Day.
They All Enjoyed Freedom
Each Month Of The Year,
Because Of The Soldiers,
Like The One Lying Here.
I Couldn’t Help Wonder
How Many Lay Alone,
On A Cold Christmas Eve
In A Land Far From Home.
The Very Thought
Brought A Tear To My Eye,
I Dropped To My Knees
And Started To Cry.
The Soldier Awakened
And I Heard A Rough Voice,
“Santa Don’t Cry,
This Life Is My Choice;
I Fight For Freedom,
I Don’t Ask For More,
My Life Is My God,
My Country, My Corps.”
The Soldier Rolled Over
And Drifted To Sleep,
I Couldn’t Control It,
I Continued To Weep.
I Kept Watch For Hours,
So Silent And Still
And We Both Shivered
From The Cold Night’s Chill.
I Didn’t Want To Leave
On That Cold, Dark, Night,
This Guardian Of Honor
So Willing To Fight.
Then The Soldier Rolled Over,
With A Voice Soft And Pure,
Whispered, “Carry On Santa,
It’s Christmas Day, All Is Secure.”
One Look At My Watch,
And I Knew He Was Right.
“Merry Christmas My Friend,
And To All A Good Night.”
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”