Santa's helper
A Soldier at Camp Taji brings Christmas cheer.

CAMP TAJI (Multi-National Force-Iraq, Dec. 24, 20006) - One of the toughest times during a Soldier's deployment is the holidays, but Soldiers are not the only ones who are homesick and miss their loved ones. Spc. Nicole Daly, a motor vehicle operator, for the 1157th Transportation Battalion, Wisconsin Army National Guard, attached to 15th SustainmentBrigade, 1st Cavalry Division, often sees the smiling faces of the men who work at the "bag farm," a bulk fuel re-supply point where the fuel containers look like oversized bags.

These employees are third country nationals who are from the Philippines, saidDaly. "They celebrate Christmas just like you and me; they even have Christmas tree competitions and give gifts," Daly said. "I know that they all have families back home and they all want to be home just like everybody here wants to be home for the holidays. They work hard there for 15 hours a day." The large influx of care packages to the 1157th gave Daly's squad leader Sgt. Dominic Renteria, a motor vehicle operator, the idea to give away the extras.

That is when she took the idea and ran with it - sprinted with it, in fact. "We have a lot of care packages that we get from people all over the place. We have rooms full of stuff and there's no way we can use that in nine months," said Daly. "I got the idea to put together smaller care packages and wrapping them and giving them to the third county nationals there - giving it to them so that they can celebrate Christmas, too." Daly put up fliers in the mail room for boxes of all shapes and sizes and received a good response. She then filled those boxes with crossword puzzles, books, DVDs, coffee mugs, candies, cookies and more.

Some of them even have baseballs and squirt guns, she said. With a total of 60 boxes, the cost to gift wrap all of these was extremely high, soDaly, the battalion's area beautification specialist, decided on another method. "I got brown packaging and I drew pictures on the outside of every box. They each have their own personalized card [too]. We work with them every day so we know [all their names]," she said. Along with the 60 care package gifts, Daly has gathered up enough Christmas stockings so that every one of the base camp workers will get one.

Before coming to Iraq, Daly did not dabble much in charity work. "I think this is the coolest thing I've ever done. I've never been [involved in] charitable things," she said. There is a first time for everything, and for Daly, being able to bring cheer to someone else's life brings with it her own feelings of joy. "That morning when we get there and they're expecting it to be like any other day... It will probably be the first gift they've gotten in months," she said. "To be able to be that person who can hand them that gift - moments like that make it worthwhile."

Along with bringing Christmas cheer to the third-country nationals working at the base camp, Daly also works as her unit's Morale, Welfare and Recreation representative. She feels it is her job to keep her fellow Soldiers' spirits high this holiday season. "We have our Christmas party on Christmas Day and I'll be setting up for that," she said. "I'm the motivator. I have to put out the word and make people want to go. A lot of people want to sit in their rooms and just be alone. My part in it is making them want to go, making them want to get up and get out of their room and make the best of the situation."

Page last updated Tue December 26th, 2006 at 10:42