Operation Give working to send Christmas cheer to deployed soldiers

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Troop draw-downs in Iraq and Afghanistan could make you think all soldiers will be home for the holiday, but thousands are still serving in those areas, not to mention those troops stationed in other places like South Korea, Europe and Japan.

With that in mind, volunteers in Utah are participating in an annual event aimed at helping those in the military enjoy the holidays.

The event is called Operation Give, and it's been making holidays happier for American servicemen and women for 11 years now.

Paul Diamond, the special projects manager for Operation Give, has completed three tours of duty with the National Guard.

"It made my Christmas to have something from home, whether it's a pack of jerky, some gum, whatever,” he said.  “It's just a small thing, but it's that thing from home, so it really ties it back to being home."

Operation Give and employees of Goldman Sachs stuffed hundreds of stockings on Veterans Day and got them ready to ship off.

“And just to feel a little bit of love from home makes their day if not their deployment, just to let them know that, hey, they actually have some support from home,” said Rodney Fife, a public information officer for Operation Give.

The stockings are filled with everything from candy and cookies to jerky and hygiene kits.

Each stocking will also contain a stuffed animal and an American Flag.

Operation Give's Vice President, Elaine Ward, said their goal is to remind soldiers they are remembered and appreciated.

“We don't want the troops to be forgotten at Christmas,” Ward said. “We want them to know that people back home appreciate what they do and we want to give them some Christmas cheer."

The volunteers who stuff the stockings and write individual notes to the troops say they get a lot out of the project.

"Losing yourself in the service of others, that's what it's all about right?” Diamond said. “That's what Christmas is to most people."

The goal is to send 10,000 to 20,000 stockings to soldiers deployed around the world, but they need more donations. Click the links below for details on how you can help.

Operation Christmas Stocking on GoFundMe.

Website for Operation Give