By Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 24, 2014 – For deployed service members, Christmas can be a time of loneliness and missed opportunity. However, many people and organizations unite to prevent those who are deployed from feeling left out during this time of the year.
Christmas 2014 in Baghdad is a prime example of what can happen when many gather in a common goal, bringing the holidays to everyone.
The 1st Infantry Division, the United States Department of State, the United Service Organizations, the New York Yankees and many other organizations gathered more than 7,000 presents to show their support for service members in Iraq.
Presents for the Troops
“The donations come from people who want to let our military members know they support them,” said Priya Butler, director of operations, USO Southwest Asia. “We’re very fortunate to have a large number of Americans who love to contribute to these events and they do it every year.”
One of the many gifts service members received were bags filled with items gathered, sorted and compiled by the players and families of the New York Yankees.
“The team stuffed care packages for us in Yankee Stadium around Veterans Day,” Butler said. “This year they put together 6,000 packages and shipped them over to us. It is a great tradition we have with the Yankees and we’re very thankful for their support.”
The Major League Baseball powerhouse wasn’t the only well-known organization wanting to give to those supporting Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq.
“Sony donated a lot of PlayStation 4s and the military appreciation bundle packs,” Butler said. “The Xbox came from the NFL, which is a huge supporter of the USO and our troops.”
Other donated items included Beats by Dre headphones, Apple iPads and iPods, Samsung Galaxy tablets, Christmas stockings filled with treats and many more items.
Planning Pays Off
“It took a lot of effort from the 1st Infantry Division,” Butler said. “This was a month’s worth of planning.”
Partnered with the division and other American agencies, the USO hosted the Dec. 21 event where the gifts were distributed. More than 200 service members participated.
“With the help of the American Employees of Baghdad Association and the USO, we were able to put this all together,” said Staff Sgt. Dianne Hoffmann, human resources administrator, 1st Inf. Div., who is deployed as part of the Combined Forces Land Component Command-Iraq.
Hoffmann, along with several other soldiers, teamed up with Butler to help bring Christmas to Baghdad.
“This is a joy,” Hoffman said. “I enjoy it immensely because it’s about giving back to the community we all work with, to pay it forward to the troops who don’t have the support from home.”