Terry DeVine column: A touch of home for troops

Things have come a long way in the three years since Operation Holidays was conceived by members of North Central Chapter 374 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Things have come a long way in the three years since Operation Holidays was conceived by members of North Central Chapter 374 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

More individuals and businesses have gotten on board for Operation Holidays III this year, and volunteers are gearing up for their best effort ever.

The purpose of Operation Holidays III is to ship care packages to U.S. troops who will not be home to spend the holidays with their families.

As someone who back in 1968 spent a lonely Christmas in a combat zone, I can personally attest that receiving something from home is a terrific morale booster and leaves one feeling very good about his country.

My unit received letters from elementary school- children that year and I saw more than one tough Marine with tears streaming down his face as he read those letters.


In the past two years, some 3½ tons of food and other items have been shipped to our troops overseas. This year the boxes will go to troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nash Finch and SuperValu have really gotten on board with this project, says Tom Laverty, one of the founders of Operation Holidays. They've donated case after case of items like canned crabmeat, shrimp, corned beef and roast beef hash and chicken breast, delicacies that troops don't see in their Meals Ready to Eat rations.

Toys R Us has been a major sponsor right along and donates board games to include in the crates. A-ACTION Moving and Storage provides all the corrugated cardboard boxes in which the items are shipped.

The crates are shipped via the U.S. Postal Service to Cumberland, Pa. There the Defense Logistics Agency takes over and ships the boxes the rest of the way on military aircraft. That organization issued a certificate of appreciation to the Mayville (N.D.)-based Chapter 374 after Operation Holidays II last year.

Much of the money raised is used to buy items to pack in the boxes. Another chunk of it goes to pay the postal shipping charges, which are significant.

Laverty says several businesses have made significant monetary donations to the project.

The Lisbon (N.D.) Veterans of Foreign Wars post donated $2,000 this year. Gate City Bank was one of the $500 donors, as was Cass County Electric Cooperative, which made a $500 emergency donation until its board of directors meets Dec. 12. The board may choose to add to that donation at that time.

Hap McCleery of J&M Printing donates all the printing of fliers and Bill Hoverson, president of Direct Mail Promotions, mailed out 120,000 fund-raising coupons free of charge this year.


The project will be at a fever pitch Dec. 5 at Teamsters Union Local No. 116, 21 18th St. S., and Dec. 6 at AMVETS Post 7, 1001 1st Ave. S., when volunteers will be packing up the boxes for shipment. Those who would like to help can call John Coyne at (701) 838-0859, Larry Dakken at 788-3435, or Laverty at (701) 297-7928.

Donation envelopes may be picked up at Krispy Kreme or Sahr's Sudden Service in Fargo, or you may send a donation directly to: Gene Bernhardt, c/o Operation Holiday III, Midway Office Building, 623 East Main Ave., West Fargo, ND, 58078.

A bowling tournament was also held last weekend at West Acres Bowl and a good turnout raised some money for the cause, says Laverty.

VVA Chapter 374 members always receive letters of thanks and appreciation from soldiers and airmen. Last year an Army Special Forces captain wrote:

"My sincerest thanks for the morale boxes. It means a lot to me and my soldiers to know that people care about us. ... We are proud to serve our Republic and the fine Americans like you that make our deployment worthwhile."

Need I say more.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or

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