Story by Spc. Katherine M. Forbes, 76th IBCT Public Affairs
INDIANAPOLIS - The man of the hour walked briskly to the stage and sat in a comfy chair. A tree decorated in tinsel and lights stood next to him. Soon, there was a line of his biggest little fans waiting to meet him. One by one kids came to sit in his lap and look up past his fluffy white beard and into his kind eyes and tell him their deepest heart’s desires for Christmas.
This time of bonding with Santa Claus was just the beginning. After telling Saint Nick what they wanted for Christmas, the kids each received a bag of toys from Santa’s helper, Mark Rosenstein, coordinator of the Indiana chapter of Operation Homefront.
Thanks to the coordinated effort of Operation Homefront and Family Programs, Santa’s appearance and the gifts were huge highlights for this year’s Christmas party for the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters Company at Tyndall Armory in Indianapolis, Dec. 5.
“We knew we were going to have a lot of kids at this party,” said Capt. Matthew Haywood, of Carmi, Ill., and the Headquarters Company commander. “We wanted to have gifts since it’s Christmas time and to do that takes money. So, we started looking at ways to get gifts for the kids.”
That’s where 1st Sgt. Ryan Bridgewater, West Lafayette, Ind., and his wife, Kim, stepped in with their contacts.
“My wife works with Family Programs as the family assistance coordinator,” Bridgewater explained. “They’ve been working with Operation Homefront for the past six years. This year they opened an Indiana chapter and were looking for an event to support.”
Rosenstein explained Operation Homefront’s mission.
“Three times a year in all states we do events like this. What they (retail stores) do is put out a bin and ask customers to purchase gifts for the kids. Those collections across the state come to Indianapolis to be organized and distributed back to the Soldiers’ kids. We do this for Christmas, Easter and Back-to-School.”
Along with the giving of gifts, Operation Homefront provides many other resources to the military.
“Our primary mission is to provide emergency relief to families of deployed
and wounded servicemembers,” said Rosenstein. “We also have a lot of donated goods, furniture, cars, electronics, etc. And, we can help out with medical emergencies and other financial problems.”
Mark Rosenstein, coordinator for the newly established Indiana charter of Operation Homefront, gives toys to a Soldier’s son at the Headquarters Company, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Christmas party, Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010, at the Tyndall Armory in Indianapolis. Indiana National Guard photo by Spc. Katherine Forbes, 76th IBCT
And how did the Christmas party turn out with Operation Homefront’s help?
“It was very successful today. We were able to make sure Santa Claus had all of his needs met in bringing the Soldier’s good little kids something for Christmas,” said Bridgewater with a smile.
To find out more about other assistant resources Operation Homefront offers visit their website at www.operationhomefront.net
Indiana Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Jason M. Holbrook, Columbus, Ind., preps a bag of toys for another Soldier’s child during weekend training, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010. These gifts were passed out at the Headquarters Company, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Christmas party on Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010 at the Tyndall Armory in Indianapolis. Indiana National Guard photo by Spc. Katherine Forbes, 76th IBCT