By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 29, 2006 – Wrapping up a trip here that also included stops in Alaska and Reno, Nev., Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld met today with volunteers from “Operation Give,” a nonprofit organization that supports children in war-torn and natural-disaster-affected areas of the world.
“Those of you who volunteer your time are appreciated,” Rumsfeld told the volunteers assembled in a warehouse. “(Your efforts) are appreciated not only in the countries where they end up helping, ” but they’re also appreciated by your fellow citizens. It says a lot about our country. It’s a generous country; it’s probably the most generous country on the face of the earth.”
Operation Give is a member of the Defense Department’s “America Supports You” program, which highlights ways in which the American people and corporations are supporting the nation’s men and women in uniform. Operation Give facilitates the distribution of toys, clothing, medical supplies and other items to children in countries such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Before meeting the volunteers, Rumsfeld met privately with the parents of Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Galvez, who was killed in Iraq on Aug. 27. Galvez’s parents are Operation Give volunteers.
Volunteers busily packed boxes with supplies before Rumsfeld’s arrival. Rumsfeld shook hands with each volunteer and was given a tour and an explanation about how Operation Give works.
All the supplies sent by Operation Give are donated by people from across the country, explained Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton, Operation Give founder and president. The warehouse here is used as a sorting facility, and from there the boxes are shipped to the military in countries where they’re needed, he said. The military distributes most of the supplies donated by Operation Give, he said.
“Wherever there are people in crises, our idea is to get this stuff in the hands of the military, so they can build that bridge,” Holton said.
Holton, also known as “Chief Wiggles,” founded Operation Give in 2003. He served in the 1990-91 Gulf War and saw duty in Iraq from February 2003 to March 2004. Since 2003, Operation Give has shipped more than 35 40-foot container loads to Iraq and Afghanistan, five to Sri Lanka, and one to the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, Holton said.
Rumsfeld said the people in the areas receiving these supplies are always grateful, and the work Operation Give does goes a long way toward improving the U.S. image overseas. He also praised the America Supports You program, calling it a great way for people to learn how they can support the troops.
“So many people get on that Web site and see things other people are doing, and get excited to do things themselves,” he said.