Operation Celebration provides Christmas cheer for Soldiers
First graders Scott Allen and Caiden Mellott make a thumbprint reindeer ornament for deployed Soldiers Nov. 29 at the primary school.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 6, 2012) -- Recognizing that many Soldiers do not get to spend the holidays at home with their loved ones, students at Fort Rucker Primary School put some holiday cheer in a box to lessen the holiday blues that some deployed Soldiers may feel.

The program begins each season with the reading of the book "Operation Celebration," where the children in the book send Christmas favors, cards and gifts to deployed fathers. Then each Fort Rucker classroom mimics the manuscript, said Katie Condon, kindergarten teacher at the primary school who began the program locally two years ago.

"The children will decide as a class what types of things they want to make and send to the Soldiers that will be away during Christmas. We always make the gifts and [the children] all try to personalize each one," she said.

The program grew last year when all of the kindergarten classes joined, and has grown further this year with the addition of first grade.

"I am so happy it is growing-- who knows where the program will take us," she said, adding that the [children] really get into the project and are thrilled to give back.

Some of the things that were made this year are paper wreaths, thumbprint ornaments, tabletop angels, Chinese poppers and military magnets.

"This has been a whole-week event. They have made so many cards, decorations and stockings," said Condon, adding that they are even sending a small tree this year.

The packages will be sent to Family members of students and staff at the primary school that are currently deployed and cannot get leave for the holidays.

"Every class has someone to send a package to. We will send the package to that specific Soldier, and they are asked to share and distribute all the gifts to their battle buddies who are also separated from their Families," said Condon.

The packages were sent out Dec. 3 and are headed to Afghanistan, Honduras, Korea and Kuwait.

Operation Celebration serves as a service learning project for the children, which teaches them that Christmas isn't just about getting gifts, according to Condon.

"It teaches them the importance of giving and that giving [a gift] can be just as fun as receiving one. It is an important lesson to learn for their age group," she said. "They understand more than what people expect about the hardships of being away from Family."

The children, who seemed quite excited about the project, wore smiles as they glued, colored and glittered their many crafts and set them aside for packaging.

"We like making stuff for the Soldiers who are not home. They need presents, too," said first grader Liam Larson. "We get to create stuff for them and they will be excited and say 'Thank you,' when they open up the boxes."

According to Wanda Wilds, first grade teacher, Operation Celebration is real for the children because they are familiar with the idea of a parent not being home for Christmas.

"They can relate to the book, so we tied it in to our social studies curriculum about how they can help out their community. Since this is their community, and their life, it is a way for them to serve people who help them," she said.

Wilds also believes that the experience makes the children feel like they are a part of the big picture.

"It gives them ownership of what's going on in their lives and it kind of makes it easier for them to accept it when it is their turn for a parent to be away. It can also teach them responsibility and how they can be of service," she added.

Page last updated Thu December 6th, 2012 at 00:00