SCHWEINFURT, Germany (Army News Service, Nov. 16, 2006) - On Christmas Day 2004, Spc. David Downing was recovering in a hospital from wounds he sustained in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Samarra, Iraq.

This holiday season he will be working on "Operation Army Santa," a program he created to help well-wishers send Christmas gifts to Soldiers deployed with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

"My goal is to show the troops that people still care about them," Downing said.

The gifts are being accepted through the U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt chaplain's office on Ledward Barracks. Downing personally oversees the acceptance, repackaging and distribution of gifts.

Having been the recipient of such donations during his last deployment - when an entire town adopted the brigade and sent nearly 2,000 packages for Christmas in July - Maj. Randy Brandt, USAG Schweinfurt chaplain, volunteered to help Downing's program.

"It just lights up the faces of the Soldiers," Brandt said. "It's an incredible excitement to know that someone cares enough to take the time to do something that special."

Care packages of any type are welcome, but drawing on his own deployed experiences, Downing said the most desired gifts are those which keep troops busy -- board games, model kits, sports equipment, etc.

Gifts should be sent early enough to meet holiday-mailing deadlines and restrictions. Downing will continue to send gifts as long as they pour in.

"I don't care if you send a package on Christmas day," Downing said. "I guarantee a deserving Soldier 'downrange' will get it."

Gifts should be sent to:
USAG Schweinfurt
Office of the Community Chaplain, Ledward Chapel
ATTN: Operation Army Santa
CMR 457, APO AE 09033-0457

For more information, e-mail