By Sgt. Jason BoydNovember 15, 2010
BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Soldiers and sailors from different units on Camp Sabalu-Harrison, Bagram, Afghanistan gathered by some shipping containers on a Saturday morning to prepare for what they believe is one of the most important Operations for which they can volunteer their time. They begin loading what is called a Bongo truck, which is like a flat bed pick-up, full of foot lockers and boxes in preparation for their mission on the other side of the base.
All of these men and woman come from different backgrounds in different cities, and different states. But today they have one common goal, and that is to take part in an important mission, Operation Pencil, a program that gives school supplies to Afghan children.
They are headed to the Egyptian Field Hospital where many Afghan men, women, and children go to receive medical care that they cannot get in their villages.
This Saturday there are about 200 Afghan school children lined up outside the gate in their black and white school uniforms waiting to come in. They know that American servicemembers are coming here to give them something that will help them get an education. As the Bongo truck backed in, the Afghan children were led through the gate two by two holding hands and staying in line waiting anxiously to see what gifts they are going to receive.
"Initially this just fell into my lap when I got here", said Army Sgt. Jordan Blake. "After I realized the potential of the program I pushed to expand it into something more significant and sustainable."
"I wanted to give the Soldiers and sailors of Camp Sabalu-Harrison an opportunity to see a different face of Afghanistan," she said.
Each child moves through the line and is given a package which includes school supplies like construction paper, writing paper, pencils, crayons, children's scissors and glue. All of these packages are donated by friends, families, church groups and other organizations in the U.S. that want to help in building a better future for Afghanistan.
The gift of these school supplies, something taken for granted by many children around the world, is one that will be remembered by these children for a lifetime. Many of these children and their teachers risk their lives everyday just to get an education, but to them it is a risk worth taking. Almost all of them come from poor families and an education is one way to get a good job and gain prominence in a village.
Without the gifts from the Soldiers and sailors many of them would not have a chance at an education and that is what they are trying to help avoid. The servicemembers don't want anything in return. The smiles on the faces of all of the children when they receive those gifts is the best gift of all.
The Soldiers and sailors volunteer their precious free time at least once a month, because they believe that this is a just cause. All too often it's the children that suffer and who are forgotten during times of war, and this is just one way for the servicemembers to let them know that someone cares.