By Lt.j.g. Theresa Donnelly, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines Public AffairsDecember 13, 2009
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines- Dozens of members of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines donated their time to stuff nearly 600 holiday stockings at JSOTF-P Camp Navarro headquarters Dec. 12.
The stockings and the items inside were from donated care packages from U.S. citizens, churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, and JSOTF-P family members. The goal of the project was for every member of JSOTF-P to have a stocking, adding a little holiday cheer to the hundreds of task force members who are separated from their friends and families.
In addition to the stockings, task force members assembled care packages containing books, candy, toiletries and movies. The Western Mindanao Command Tailor made the stockings for a discounted price, while other handmade stockings came in the mail.
The idea for the project came from the JSOTF-P Command Chaplain team, who began receiving care packages for the troops last September. The Chaplain's Assistant, Air Force Master Sgt. Rose Gould, sent individual thank-you notes to all those who sent the packages.
"I think it meant a lot to people to get a personalized note back, showing our appreciation for their donations. From there, we started getting even more care packages. We can't even begin to express our gratitude for this outpouring of support. It really demonstrates the holiday spirit of giving to others," said Gould.
After learning of the project from the task force members, JSOTF-P families and other organizations began organizing drives to send more supplies. In total, more than 200 care packages arrived at JSOTF-P headquarters, with many more coming in daily.
One of the volunteers who helped stuff the stockings was Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jarod Savage. In September, his wife Linda created an adopt-a-troop program, a collaborative effort from family, friends and other local organizations in Colorado Springs, Colo. Her efforts resulted in the shipment of 270 protein shake bottles, to not only JSOTF-P personnel, but for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
"I'm calling her a hero for this program because what she is doing is phenomenal. She had so many people involved in this, most importantly my two sons," said Savage.
Many of the care packages came with personalized letters from U.S. citizens, thanking the troops here for their service. Children from schools across the nation made cards, expressing their appreciation for the men and women in uniform. John Cuthbertson, a sixth-grader from Fort Gratiot, Mich. writes, "Your bravery and courage to serve for our country is tremendous. To serve and risk your life for our country is amazing."
Over the next couple of weeks, the care packages will be sent to JSOTF-P members stationed throughout the southern Philippines.
At the request of the Philippine government, JSOTF-P partners with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other government units in a variety of humanitarian, construction, and other economic development projects. Teams stationed here aim to promote peace and prosperity throughout the Mindanao region.