Group Takes Christmas on the Road

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2006 - A troop-support organization and a major retailer are bringing the holiday spirit to families at six military bases through "Operation Christmas."

"Operation Homefront is going to six military bases across the United States to basically host three-hour parties where military children will be given free toys," said Meredith Leyva Operation Homefront founder, adding that every family member will receive a $20 Wal-Mart gift certificate as well.

Operation Homefront and Wal-Mart, both members of America Supports You, are hosting the traveling event. America Supports You is a Defense Department program highlighting ways Americans and the corporate sector support the nation's military.

Space at the parties is limited, so early registration through Homefront's Web site is encouraged, she said. Registration is essential to receive a gift certificate, as they will be provided only to the first 200 families that register, Leyva said.

At each party, Santa Claus will greet military children with free toys provided by Wal-Mart. He'll listen to their Christmas requests and read stories to them at the top of each hour, as well, she said.

Families also will be able to create decorations to trim their Christmas trees, and children will have the opportunity to try out the latest toys and electronic games, Leyva said.

Holiday food and music will round out the festivities. "It should be a fun and festive holiday event where everybody gets to take a way something fun."

The Holiday Caravan will visit the following military installations:

-- Nov. 22: Scott Air Force Base, Ill., noon to 3 p.m.;

-- Nov. 27: Naval Station Norfolk, Va., 5 to 8 p.m. ;

-- Dec. 2: MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., 9 a.m. to noon;

-- Dec. 7: Naval Construction Battalion Center/Gulfport and Kessler Air Force Base, Miss., 7 to 10 a.m.;

-- Dec. 13: Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, 6 to 9 a.m.; and

-- Dec. 20: Fort Stewart, Ga., 7 to 10 a.m.

"We specifically chose those bases where there are tremendous numbers of deployments and we wanted to spread a little extra holiday cheer for those who deserve it so much," Leyva said.

ABC's "Good Morning America" is scheduled to broadcast live the festivities of "Operation Christmas" and the Holiday Caravan at the last three locations.

"At those locations, we hope to have a satellite hook-up that would connect deployed servicemembers with their families on the base, so they can see each other live (and) in-person so to speak," Leyva said, adding her organization will post photos and video to the Homefront Web site so those deployed can see their families in action.

Wal-Mart will donate $20,000 to each military base participating in Operation Christmas and the Holiday Caravan in support of local military family programs. Additionally, the company will donate $100,000 to Operation Homefront when Operation Christmas concludes, Leyva said.

That donation will be used to purchase laptop computers specially adapted for wounded warriors. Homefront will distribute the laptops to servicemembers recovering at military hospitals.

[Web Version:]