HOHENFELS, Germany- When thoughts of the holidays come to mind, one can imagine twinkling Christmas lights, the smells of cinnamon and pine in the air, and the warmth of family laughter. But, for those single soldiers stationed overseas or away from their families- the holidays can be a bit lonely.
Members of the Hohenfels Parent Teacher Organization and student council, along with the Hohenfels community, have not forgotten about the single soldiers and their sacrifice. Most realize that it is not easy to serve away from your families during the holidays.
"[This is] near and dear to my heart. These soldiers bring back memories of when my husband was stationed in Korea by himself. He spent the holidays alone and no one should be alone during the holidays," said Blair Riehl.
Riehl is the PTO Parlimentarian and one of the avid organizers of the operation to bring joy to single soldiers and geographical bachelors alike. The PTO is working with the student council of Hohenfels Middle High school and the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program, to give the feeling that though Soldiers are far away, there is still family here for you.
"We are partnered with our student council and BOSS; the project is called Holly Jolly Hohenfels where we are providing goodie bags similar to stockings to all of the single soldiers here on post," Riehl said.
Riehl is not alone in the effort by here side is Michelle Rothbaurer, a teacher at Hohenfels Middle-High school, for providing guidance to members of the student council.
"Working with the students was amazing. It was amazing to just take a step back and let them take charge of this. We surpassed our goal of 250 gift bags, and we have over 500," Rothbauer said.
Holly Jolly Hohenfels is an important project for Rothbauer as well as the Hohenfels community. She expresses that it's the job of the community to come together during these times to provide for the single soldiers.states that this
"This was important to me because some single soldiers have never received anything. If all I had to do was rally some troops together and say this is our community, these are the soldiers working here for the holidays. We don't want anyone in Hohenfels not having love, magic, and that feeling of Christmas when we could've easily pulled it off. These are our soldiers; this is our community. We have an obligation to take care of our community so we will," Rothbauer said.
Riehl and Rothbauer both express that it was the aid of the student council, the BOSS program, and members of the Hohenfels community who made this project run so smoothly. With everyone being on the same page in regards as their reasoning for wanting to take care of the single soldier community during what is called a high risk time of year.
"I feel like it is important to give back to the soldiers especially if they are not with family for the holidays it helps them see that this is a place that they can call home and we can bring comfort to them during this special time of year," said Esmeralda Martinez, student council president at Hohenfel Middle High School.
With everyone being on the same page as their reasoning for wanting to take care of the single soldier community during what is called a high-risk time of year.
"This is so important for single soldiers. The focus has really been on married soldiers so we wanted to help coordinate a project that would help our single soldier community feel more at home and make sure they are taken care of," said Sgt. Connor Smith, BOSS president.
With the theme of giving back as the main focus of the project, the members sprang into action. Riehl used her contacts in the community as well as in the states to help with the donations. Rothbauer organized with the student council to make bags and write Christmas cards to go along with them. BOSS provided help with the bag stuffing and organization. BOSS also coordinated with the Military Police to have gift bags delivered to MP Soldiers on Ansbach as well.
Members of the project set out Monday morning, joining the soldiers at their morning formation on Warrior Field. There was laughter, cheer and the sense of family in the air as the bags were delivered and well received by the single soldier community.
"What was done here this morning was so special because, as a single soldier, I have been stationed here since 2015. I know that feeling of being away from my family during the holidays you know in all honesty this makes us feel more welcome and it feels great to be able to have a community thinking of us even though we don't know them directly is a great gesture," said Sgt. Daniel Flores.
Members of the Hohenfels community proved to the single soldiers of the community that they are not forgotten and that they are important. It is not the expense of the gift itself but the thought of bringing joy and magic to those who are serving so far from home which led to the very first Holly Jolly Hohenfels project success.