Chaplains spread holiday spirit across Afghanistan
December 26, 2012
FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan (Dec. 26, 2012) -- For Soldiers serving on forward operating bases and combat outposts across Afghanistan, receiving packages from home during the holiday season can turn a good day into the best day of the deployment.
With that thought in mind, Maj. Eric Meyners, brigade chaplain, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Albuquerque, N.M., native, began gathering boxes and packages from people and organizations across the United States in order to provide a little extra holiday spirit during the deployment.
"As a chaplain, one of the roles I end up with is being designated receiver of the good will of the American people," said Meyners.
Meyners received a large number of gift boxes from the city of Palm Springs, Fla., which gave him an idea. Meyners decided to forward the holiday packages to the outlying outposts to ensure every Soldier was aware of the support they were getting from the American public.
"I believe the greatest benefit is for our Soldiers to be reminded that there are lots of people in our country who support the service that they have volunteered to provide," said Meyners.
Sgt. Amanda Olmeda, a chaplain assistant, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Holt, Mo., native, began receiving packages in early November.
"Being a chaplain assistant, you receive a lot of stuff from the states, from people who want to give something back to our Soldiers," she said.
Meyners said that packages supporting our Soldiers can come from anywhere.
"Schools, churches, scout troops, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and children. In other words, people that we all know, from communities all across the United States," Meyners said.
Once the packages arrive at Forward Operating Base, or FOB, Fenty, the hard work really begins. Spc. Rodney Wall, the company mail handler for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), was tasked with facilitating the movement of the 70-lb. holiday boxes to their final destination.
As the company mail handler, Wall, a native of Hutchinson, Kan., usually begins his day by picking up the unit mail from the central mail facility on FOB Fenty. But when it came time to distribute the holiday packages for the brigade chaplain, Wall had to change his routine.
Over the course of four days and six trips around Jalalabad Airfield, Olmeda and Wall moved an estimated 2,100 pounds of holiday cheer to the mail distribution facility where the packages were palletized and prepared for distribution across the Kunar and Nangarhar provinces.
Wall was excited about helping to send these much needed packages to the outlying locations.
"This sort of activity is important because Soldiers in remote locations are forced to do without a lot of the comforts of home," he said."These packages are one way to get supplies, and/or gifts, to these Soldiers that they would otherwise not have the opportunity to get for themselves."
Meyners worked with the units at each of the outlying outposts to designate a representative who would receive the boxes and distribute them to the Soldiers throughout the holidays.
"Soldiers love to know that strangers are thinking of them and that the things they are doing are appreciated," said Meyners.
As for Wall, "these care packages serve as a morale mission first and foremost. It shows the Soldiers that they have not been forgotten and it gives them something from home to help keep their spirits up."