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. Its 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,
Its 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 holidays. 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”
Posted by Chief Wiggles Monday, 30 December 2013
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 harms 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.”
Stocking were Delivered!
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 Id 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 Couldnt 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 Dont Cry,
This Life Is My Choice;
I Fight For Freedom,
I Dont Ask For More,
My Life Is My God,
My Country, My Corps.
The Soldier Rolled Over
And Drifted To Sleep,
I Couldnt Control It,
I Continued To Weep.
I Kept Watch For Hours,
So Silent And Still
And We Both Shivered
From The Cold Nights Chill.
I Didnt 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,
Its 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.
Posted by Chief Wiggles Wednesday, 18 December 2013