Operation Mom

Military Family Support
SF GATE 07-31-2004

SFGATE
reviews Operation Mom

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Vets reach out from behind bars / San Quentin veterans' group wins respect by supporting troops and their families
John Geluardi, Special to The Chronicle Published 4:00 am, Friday, September 3, 2004
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Inmate Mike Northrop signed a large banner unrolled in the exercise yard that will be sent to the troops along with the 800 care packages. Inmates from the Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin packed boxes of goodies for troops serving in Iraq in San Quentin on 7/31/04.

PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle
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John Blair (left) and S. Russell (cq) clown around while repacking dried ramen noodles into baggies to make it easier to ship. Inmates from the Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin packed boxes of goodies for troops serving in Iraq in San Quentin on 7/31/04.

PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle
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Assembled baggies filled with toiletries will be boxed up along with snacks and sent to about 800 ssoldiers in the Middle East. Inmates from the Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin packed boxes of goodies for troops serving in Iraq in San Quentin on 7/31/04.

PAUL CHINN/The Chronicle
Here's an old face, now, long-tried, and tender, a word and a hand-clasp as they troop in. -- "The Old Soldier," Katharine Tynan.

On a recent Saturday morning, about three dozen San Quentin inmates worked shoulder to shoulder with nine suburban moms on the ground floor of a 150-year-old brick building that looms over the prison's infamous Lower Yard. The
Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin and volunteers for the military family support group Operation Mom were packing 430 small, cardboard boxes with everyday items that can mean a great deal to a homesick soldier stationed in Iraq -- a new toothbrush, a small tube of deodorant, a half-dozen tea bags, a fresh pair of socks.


Near the end of the makeshift assembly line that wound through a warren of small rooms, Purple Heart recipient
Jeffrey Languese, 55, who is doing time for second-degree murder, placed a short stack of handwritten notes from the incarcerated veterans in each box. Like the other items in the care packages, the notes assured the troops that people back home support them and are thinking of them -- even from behind the yellowed walls of California's oldest prison.


"Remember, we will not forget you. Everyone at home supports and loves you. You are heroes," one note read. "Wish I was there, glad you're not here," read another.
It is efforts like the care-package project that have earned the veterans group the respect and trust of prison officials, veterans' organizations and their fellow inmates. Since 1990, the group has raised more than $30,000, which it has contributed to organizations such as the
Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Marin Abused Women's Shelter and the Save the Children Walk-A-Thon.


In addition, each year the veterans organize the S.Q. Christmas Toy Program and raise money from their scant prison wages and food sales for their prized project, the VVGSQ
college scholarships for children of veterans.


Operation Mom was formed by two Antioch mothers after the Sept. 11 attacks to support the families and friends of military personnel and to provide a number of direct support services to troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. They organize letter-writing campaigns, send cards and magazines and collect coupons the troops can use at military commissaries.


However, the joint care package project with the VVGSQ was the first time Operation Mom volunteers had worked with incarcerated felons, and it was certainly the first time the suburban women had been on a prison yard. Castro Valley Chapter Vice President
Louise Tamayo said she was initially a bit wary.


"When they suggested the project, I was worried about risking the reputation of Operation Mom, and after all, San Quentin Prison is not exactly on the same side of the street I was brought up on," she said. "But the guys did a fantastic job. They really understand how important it is for the troops to receive something from home."


Korean War veteran
Ed Payton, 69, the group's eldest member, said being able to make a gesture of support to the troops has a special meaning for the incarcerated veterans.


"We don't know them, but it's a very profound feeling to be able to offer help," Payton said. "Some of those young men and women won't come back, and their mothers and family won't get to share their lives with them."



VVGSQ committee member Eric Haskin, 60, said the Vietnam War was so unpopular that returning troops often felt they were not appreciated. He said it's important those serving in Iraq don't have the same experience.
"Now I'm able to help give something I didn't get when I was in Vietnam. The troops need to know we care," he said. "And it helps us raise our heads."
Honorably discharged


The only requirement for membership in the VVGSQ is an honorable discharge from military service. Their membership includes veterans from the Korean War up to Operation Desert Storm. The majority of the 35 members are doing hard time for serious crimes such as first- and second-degree murder and assault.
But despite the nature of their crimes, prison officials said VVGSQ members are typically model inmates and very rarely face disciplinary actions.



In fact, Department of Corrections Director
Jeanne Woodford, who was warden at San Quentin in 2001, entrusted the VVGSQ with collecting donations for family members of victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The veterans raised more than $8,000 from other inmates and prison staff. Woodford, who is the only non-military veteran member of the VVGSQ, said she put her faith in them because of their record of good work.


"They developed high standards of behavior for themselves and hold their members to those high standards," Woodford said. The veterans' group has also had success in overcoming one of the toughest problems in American prisons. According to Associate
Warden Susan Cherry, there is very little racial strife with the VVGSQ, which was founded by a racially mixed group of eight veterans that included former Black Panther Geronimo Pratt.


"This particular group works well together, and they have accomplished good things together," Cherry said. "It's a brotherhood, a shared experience independent of incarceration. "The VVGSQ also avoids political tension by not taking official positions on the war in Iraq.


"We support the troops who have pledged their lives," said J.B Wells, 62. "We put politics aside and focus on the troops who deserve our support no matter how we may feel about the war."


Of all the programs the veterans are involved in, the one that has a special meaning for them is their scholarship program. Each year, the VVGSQ presents two college scholarships, one for $1,500 and another for $750, to children of veterans.
There are 198 high schools from six school districts that participate in the scholarship program. To apply, candidates have to prove their eligibility and write a short essay answering the question "What effect has my parents' military service had on my life?"


A VVGSQ committee reads through the hundreds of letters they receive each year and chooses several finalists from which two are selected by a group vote.
VVGSQ Chairman J. "Wolf" Stipe, 53, said the essays should be well- written, but it's more important that they are evocative. Stipe, a father of four, took out his wallet and produced two carefully folded essays written by scholarship winners.
"Personally, what I look for is an essay that makes me cry, and these did that," he said. "The war had a dramatic effect on a lot of our children, and these essays remind me of the effect it had on mine."


In her essay, 2002 scholarship winner
Chelsea Regan describes her father's inability to bond with his children because of trauma he suffered in Vietnam.
"My father resembles the men that think about their terrifying experience until there is no more left to relive, and even then they rewind what they have just thought about," she wrote. "I feel that by my father being a Vietnam veteran, I have absolutely no idea about what kind of person my father is, and that saddens me to no end."


Supervisor of Correctional Educational Programs Jean Bracy said the annual scholarship award ceremony, which takes place at San Quentin, is always an emotional event.


"Each year there's not a dry eye in the house," she said. "Everybody cries: prison staff, the parents and especially the veterans."


Forgotten
warriors
According to a recent study sponsored by the California Department of Corrections, about 10 percent of the state's 165,000 inmates are military veterans. The VVGSQ says most of them are not career criminals but rather good people who fell into bad situations as a result of drug and alcohol abuse.



The members of the VVGSQ say they spend a lot of time reflecting on their crimes and how their experiences in the military may have contributed to their depression, addictions and criminal behavior. However, they quickly make it clear that their military experiences are not an excuse for their crimes.
Vietnam War veteran
J.B. Wells, 62, said soldiers who served in Vietnam were poorly prepared for civilian life.


"Vets who were not debriefed when they returned from Vietnam often found a lack of support due to the widespread anti-war movement," he said. "Some had a tendency to isolate themselves in pockets around the country, and that's what led to problems with drugs and alcohol. Alcohol seems to be the string that ties us together."


Jeffrey Languese fits into that pattern. During a short break from his place on the care-package assembly line, he talked about his service in Vietnam, receiving the Purple Heart and his descent into drug abuse when he returned home. In May 1969, Languese was on a four-man patrol in the "Highland Region" near the borders of Cambodia and Laos. All four members of his patrol were wounded when a B-40 rocket exploded in front of them. A piece of shrapnel struck him in the head and another mangled his left forearm.


While he spoke about the incident, he removed his light blue veteran's cap to reveal a jagged-edge, silver dollar-sized scar beneath which a metal plate reinforces the top of his skull.


He said the transition to civilian life after Vietnam was rough.
"After Vietnam, I just couldn't slow up," he said. "I felt like I was left behind. All my friends had moved on with their lives."


Languese had difficulty finding and keeping a job. After a few years, he finally landed a good position with the Postal Service . But by that time he was also struggling with drug addiction. By 1986, he was entangled in circumstances that ended abruptly with a homicide and his subsequent conviction for second-degree murder.


Since his incarceration at San Quentin, he has worked his way through an 8,000-hour machinists program and credits the VVGSQ for developing his sense of self-worth. Like many of the VVGSQ members, Languese said the veterans group has given him the opportunity to contribute to society and, in a small way, make amends for his crime.


"What I did was almost inexcusable," he said. "I've learned a good trade and worked hard to get things right in my life ... we all have."


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SF GATE 03-22-2003

SFGATE
reviews Operation Mom

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Loved ones support troops, each other / Group provides care packages, comfort to kin
Christopher Heredia Published 4:00 am, Saturday, March 22, 2003


OPERATION MOM
March 22, 2003

Loved ones support troops, each other
Group provides care packages, comfort to kin

Christopher Heredia Saturday, March 22, 2003

It began after the terrorist at tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with a handful of Bay Area parents of men and women in the military gathering to give one another comfort and support.

Since then, Operation: Mom has grown to more than 200 members mothers, fathers, spouses and siblings of U.S. service members talking and putting together care packages and letters for sons and daughters serving at home and abroad.

"The heart of Operation: Mom is the support group aspect for parents, friends, loved ones of military members who have been deployed," said Gloria Godchaux, an Antioch mother who co-founded the organization with Dotty Selmeczki, a Castro Valley mother, after both women's sons joined the Marines. Much of their work is assuaging fears of the unknown, joining parents in prayer. Now that the war against Iraq has begun, the group has shifted into high gear, fielding phone calls and e-mail requests from parents nationwide.

The e-mails Godchaux reads on the group's Web site touch her deeply.

One, from a father who was in the military as a young man, says that now that his son is in the military, he can relate to the anxiety his parents went through. An other, from a soldier in the field, says he is glad the group is there to support his parents.

"It's a spirit we've created, a bond among people who have loved ones in the military, having each other to lean on," said Selmeczki, whose 25-year-old son, Casey, is a lance corporal in the Marines.

"We were trying to create an environment that is safe and secure, one in which a parent can pick up the phone and call any hour of the day and have that other person on the other end of the line understand, support and carry them through hard times."

Operation: Mom is not a political group, said Godchaux, although the group fervently supports the troops going into Iraq.

"All of us as parents do not want war," Godchaux said. "Not one of us would say, "Sure, send my son,' but we do want to support our children in their chosen career paths. We're not supporting the war, but their oath."

Godchaux's son, Kevin, a 20-year-old radio operator in the Marines stationed in Hawaii, hasn't gotten orders to go to the gulf yet. But she received his life insurance policy in the mail, which she said gave her a sinking feeling.

"You raised your kids, you have your thumb on their health and safety as young adults, then they're gone. Not knowing whether he is safe can be so nerve-racking."

Parents and friends involved in Operation: Mom also put together "A Little Touch of Home" care packages, which contain such items as toothpaste, protein bars, hard candy, beef and turkey jerky, baby wipes, razor cartridge refills, letter-writing supplies and envelopes with first-class postage.

Jan Sanchez, a Pittsburg mother of an Army machinist, said Operation: Mom has been a tremendous support for her and other parents.

"I'm hoping my son doesn't go to the Middle East, but if he doesn't, that means someone else's son goes who may not be as prepared," Sanchez said. "I feel for the parents whose children just joined the military and now they're gone. It's heart wrenching."

Godchaux, a parent involvement coordinator for the Antioch Unified School District and a member of her PTA, said working on Operation: Mom has become a full-time commitment.

"I am overwhelmed by the response, also by how much work is involved," she said. "I'm bowing out of other areas of my life, but I wouldn't trade a minute of sleep for those times I was able to talk to those moms on the phone or in a support group or online to offer support.

"I spoke with a mom this morning who said her son is one of the ones protecting her freedom to drive down the freeway, to go where she wants and say what she wants," Godchaux said. "It's a sacrifice for families to see their kids go. It tears your heart to know they're in someplace where there's imminent danger. Freedom doesn't come for free."

For more information about Operation: Mom, visit the group's Web site: www.operationmom.org, call (925) 706-1736 or write to Operation: Mom, P.O. Box 1096, Antioch, CA 94509. Copyright 1997-1999 Global Digital Technologies, Inc. All rights reserved.

Eail Christopher Heredia at cheredia@sfchronicle.com.


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OAKLAND TRIBUNE 06-25-10

Oakland Tribune
reviews Operation Mom

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Alameda Army mother finds support in Operation Mom
By Lucinda Ryan
Correspondent
At age 21, Ryan Garrett has already spent a year of his young life in Iraq, serving in the Army as a cavalry scout.

"He joined the Army in 2007, right after he graduated from Encinal High," said his mother, Denise Langowski. "He always wanted to join the military."

For Langowski, the days and nights of not knowing if her son is in harm's way are difficult.

"It's really hard even with the Internet and Skype and cell phone calls," she said. "We're at the mercy of their calls, good or bad. It's really hard on his 7-year-old sister, Samantha. She said on Veterans Day at school no one seemed to care about it."

Garrett is now stationed in Germany, waiting to begin flight school to learn how to fly helicopters. While her son pursued his military dreams overseas, his mother needed to do something to relieve the chronic worry about him and to help other soldiers and their families. She found what she was seeking through Operation Mom, a national volunteer organization that provides emotional support for military families and supplies for their deployed family members.

Operation Mom's local chapter is based in Hayward.

"I went to a meeting and walked into this fabulous group of people who instantly made me feel welcome," Langowski said. "There are even people in the group who don't have family or friends in the military; they just want to support the troops. It's a place to cry and talk about your kids without feeling like you're bragging." Langowski has scheduled an Alameda collection day for cash donations and items that Operation Mom members will box up and send to deployed personnel. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 3 at the Veterans Building, 2203 Central Ave.

Any donated cash goes 100 percent to pay for postage and supplies, Langowski said. Welcome items include memory sticks for computers, nonperishable foods such as microwaveable macaroni and cheese or rice, powder drinks, comfort items such as shampoos, soaps, baby wipes (liquid hand sanitizers "turn to goop in sand" Langowski said. Other needs are men's and women's magazines such as hot rod publications or "Rolling Stone," socks, washcloths, books, DVDs, prepaid phone cards and other items that would bring comfort.

"If you have a deployed family member bring an address. We'll make sure they get a box," Langowski said.

Jane Fellows is another Alamedan who has children in the military. Twins Kenny and Shaun, 19, enlisted in the Army after graduating from Alameda High School. Shaun, a combat engineer, has been in Afghanistan since December and Kenny, a cavalry scout, will go in July.

"I met Denise at a barbecue, and she's been a big help to me," Fellows said. "I'm not prepared for kids in military during wartime. I have so much pride for both my sons even though it's not a job I would have picked for them. I have the best support of family and friends, but no matter what, it's hard. Operation Mom is wonderful. "

Operation Mom includes all family and friends of active personnel in any branch of the military. It is nonpolitical and nonreligious.

"Operation Mom means there is someone you can call in the middle of the night," Langowski said. "There is always somebody to support you and listen to your story. I know Jane and I aren't the only military families in Alameda. Come join us at Operation Mom."

To see this article on their website, click here:
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_15368872

OAKLAND TRIBUNE 09-17-2009

Oakland Tribune
reviews Operation Mom

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Soldier's mysterious death a burden for Pittsburg family
By Paul Burgarino
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 09/17/2009 02:36:22 PM PDT
Updated: 09/17/2009 05:11:43 PM PDT



When Stanley Hopkins and ex-wife Janet Hopkins suffered through serious illnesses, their son was always at their side.

Now, the parents are trying to do the same for him as they lay their deceased "best friend" to rest.

Cpl. Jeramy Hopkins, who served in Iraq with the Army National Guard intermittently for 10 months before getting injured, died in his sleep during a camping trip to Mendocino with his mother over Labor Day weekend. He was 23. The family is awaiting results of a coroner's autopsy on the cause of death.

"At this point, we don't want to think about it," Stanley Hopkins said. "He was my only child. My absolute best friend. Not only did I lose a son, I lost my best friend."

During a visitation at Holy Angels mortuary in Antioch on Wednesday, close friends told stories of Jeramy's love of four-wheeling, dressing up like G.I. Joe as a child, and ability to get into and out of trouble. His funeral was held Thursday at Golden Hills Community Church in Brentwood.

The parents are struggling pay funeral costs, and local veterans are trying to help. The family owes the funeral home in Mendocino $700 for transporting Jeramy to the Bay Area, and another $12,900 for funeral home and burial services, according to Ethel Gilmore, a volunteer with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Livermore and Palo Alto who has been trying to garner support for the Hopkins family.

As of Thursday, about $5,000 had been collected from groups like Operation MOM, individual veterans and the P-Town Pushrods hot rod club in Pleasanton, Gilmore said.

Jeramy grew up in Dublin and Pleasanton, earned his General Educational Development credential, and fulfilled a childhood ambition of joining the Army at age 18. He served in the Army's 10th Mountain Division for three years, then the stint in the National Guard.

He returned home for a spell while serving in Iraq to help his mother after she had knee surgery. Jeramy was "my rock," Janet said.

Janet Hopkins is on disability for lupus and a couple of other ailments. Her son drove her to appointments and helped with daily functions, she said.

"He told me, 'Mom, you can't go through all this by yourself,'"‰" she said. "It's going to be tough for me. I can't believe it happened."

Jeramy insisted his father come back to California from South Carolina because of the health problems and the fact that he was about to lose his house and car, Stanley said.

"He drove like 31/2 days straight in the U-Haul. That was his top priority," Stanley said, recalling the help Jeramy provided.

Stanley had another heart problem when coming to Pittsburg, and Jeramy insisted he go to the hospital.

"I wouldn't have gone if he wouldn't have made me go. He probably saved my life," Stanley said.

HOW TO HELP


A memorial trust fund has been set up for Jeramy Hopkins at ECC Bank of Agriculture, 1411 A St., Antioch, CA 94509. Donations can be made payable to: S.J. Hopkins Memorial Trust Fund.


This editorial is no longer available on the Tribune website due to the age of the document
OAKLAND TRIBUNE 10-23-2006

Oakland Tribune
reviews Operation Mom

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Operation: MOM allows families 'time to breathe'
FREMONT -- What does a mother do when her son or daughter goes to war?
Some, like 56-year-old Hayward mom Margaret Paredes, glue themselves to the television to watch the latest news reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. Others, like 55-year-old Fremont resident Diane Layfield, avoid the television, afraid of what they may hear or see.

Some military mothers seldom socialize with others, or as Paredes said, they have to be reminded to "find the time to breathe."

"There's really no way to express yourself to someone and feel like you're being understood -- unless you're talking to someone who's going through what you're going through," Paredes said. The mother of four has two children in the military, including a 26-year- old son, Nick, who served in Iraq. …


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OAKLAND TRIBUNE 07-25-2006

Oakland Tribune
reviews Operation Mom

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Operation: MOM finds base in Hayward
HAYWARD -- After nearly five years on the roam, Operation: MOM has found a home.
The nationally known organization, now headquartered at its president's Castro Valley home, is moving to donated office space at Chapel of the Chimes Memorial Park and Funeral Home in South Hayward.

The relocation will be announced today during the dedication of a hillside garden at Chapel of the Chimes.

Operation: MOM has helped members of the military and their families since its inception shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

The group of mothers and backers have counseled anxious relatives, raised money for assistance programs and packed care packages for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. …


To see this article on their website, click here:
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OAKLAND TRIBUNE 04-02-2003

Oakland Tribune
reviews Operation Mom

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Article Last Updated: Wednesday, April 02, 2003

3:31:59 AM PST
Alameda mother / grateful for MOM

FORMER PEACE Corps volunteer Lynne Fisher thought she closed the door on her world travels with the corps many years ago. Content to just settle down and raise a family, the Alamedan raised two sons and a daughter as a single mom. But her youngest, Joseph, was destined to follow in her footsteps. "On his 18th birthday he went down and joined the Marines," she said sadly. "But anyone who knows us should not be surprised. My father was a co-pilot during the invasion of Normandy, my brother was in Vietnam and at age 17, my grandfather drove a Harley delivering messages to the front in WW I. One of Joe's ancestors fought in the Civil War and his uniform is on display at the Smithsonian Institute."

"I saw my Marine in January, just before he went back to Camp Pendleton. After our visit, I watched him drive away and then I started crying. After all, I may never see him again," she said regretfully. "I realize that it could happen. Something is going to happen to somebody's child. I pray it's not mine. "I grew up in the 'boondocks' of Southwestern Penn- sylvania and attended the same high school with Joe Montana. I was so far out of the city that the only time I saw my friends was at church or school. While I was at Pittsburgh's Robert Morris University, Peace Corps recruiters came to my college. I filled out an application and later received an invitation to join the Corps."

Fisher began her Peace Corps travels on the Leeward Islands in Barbados, and later added countries like India, Guinea, Nairobi, and the Polytechnic Islamic Institute in Mombasa to her travels. She taught business courses to well-to-do locals in several countries.

"Once I left Mombasa, I went to India, Karachi, and Bombay and then I went up to Delhi and Katmandu. I later went to Calcutta. I just liked to travel," she said. "When I was a little kid, I was always looking at maps. I always had a globe and I was always telling everybody where I was going to go." "Joseph has been in the Marines since 2000 and is on his second tour. He's not allowed to talk about things but it's ironic that he's tracing some of my steps when I was in that part of the world," she said.

"My son is willing to give his life for his country and that's part of the cement that binds all our mothers together. Operation MOM has brought some peace to the mothers," she said. Fisher wonders why our local people are so divisive.

"I'd like to get more people involved supporting our children. It's distressing that local people are so cavalier about the war," she said. "It almost seems like they are trying to recreate the sixties and turn it in to just another public relations effort." Fisher says some are ignoring the hurts mothers feel over their sons and daughters. "At the last Operation MOM meeting we started talking about our children and the tears just flowed," Fisher said. "We were all crying. I'm a strong person with a lot of support and it's great that we have a group that understands. We have a common bond. It's getting worse and worse. We hear about casualties and the shivers run up our backs."

Her resolve is fragile, and her stoicism lingers over the anxiety this war could take her son away from her. "I don't watch too much television because I'm afraid I'll see my son in a bad situation. But I'm grateful for Operation MOM. At least we can share our emotions. Each of us knows how the other feels." In one of Joe's letters, he said there was so much sand you couldn't see the sun sometimes, Fisher recalls. He said he didn't have anything to write about, but he wanted me to know he'd be home safely this summer and not to worry. He said to tell everybody he loved them and tell Marion, (their 88-year-old neighbor), he said "hi."

Fisher's gaze lingers over a photo of her son, and a rush of pride comes over her. "I'm proud of Joseph, and as a loyal American, I'm proud to allow him to defend what we believe in. When my son comes home, I'm going to have my friend create a big banner and my old Peace Corps friends will greet him when he gets in."

Join Operation MOM in supporting our military sons and daughter. Log in on www.operationmom.org or contact Dottie at (925) 706-1736. Longtime Alameda resident Mark Raymond Chandler can be reached at 521-8302 or by e-mail to indonesia9@alamedanet.net .

This editorial is no longer available on theTribune website due to the age of the document
SAN LEANDRO TIMES

San Leandro Times
reviews Operation Mom

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Darlene Saunders of Castro Valley proudly holds a photo of her daughter Linda who was deployed to Iraq two years ago.
OPERATION: MOM


By Robert Souza
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM


While gently wringing her hands, Darlene Saunders of Castro Valley talks about her thoughts and feelings when her daughter Linda was deployed to Iraq two years ago.

 
“Saying it was a difficult time for me is an understatement,” said Saunders who became depressed and overwhelmed by nagging thoughts of her daughter in the middle of a war zone.

It was an intervening friend in town who urged Saunders to attend an Operation: Mom meeting.

 
To say the group helped Saunders through the experience is another understatement.

 
“It was incredible. Everyone was extremely caring and we all talked about our sons and daughters who were deployed,” explained Saunders who is still active with Operation Mom and attends meetings and activities for the organization.

 
After the 9/11 attacks in New York, Dottie Selmeczki and Gloria Godchaux of Castro Valley formed Operation: Mom as a support mechanism since both had sons deployed through the Marines.

 
Membership fluctuates based on needs of families. It currently has 25 active members. Parents and family members of those in all branches of the military are welcome to the group which strives to support service personnel by sending packages overseas on a regular basis.

 
Just in the past decade, Operation: Mom has sent out 62,752 boxes of snacks, toiletries and personal items to sons and daughters in service across the globe.

 
Though her daughter returned stateside last year from Marine Corps duty, Darlene Saunders continues to drum up support for Operation: Mom: “They are a great group and the things they do for kids deployed are incredible.”

 
Visit www.operationmom.org or call 510-909-2714 to find out more about Operation: Mom and how you can support its efforts.


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SAN LEANDRO TIMES 02-13-2003

San Leandro Times
reviews Operation Mom

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MILITARY MOMS SEND SUPPLIES
February 13, 2003

By Linda Sandsmark

Every person on active military duty leaves behind a family. Locally, those families have banded together to create a support group called Operation: MOM.

Operation: MOM is sending care packages overseas to our military personnel, and they're inviting the public to join in. The group will be collecting donations of many types this Sunday at the old Mervyn's parking lot on the 16000 block of Hesperian Boulevard. Another donation site will be Rite Aid's parking lot, 3848 Castro Valley Boulevard, Castro Valley. Moms: Group requests food, hygiene products

"This is the first time we've done a 'donation depot,'" says Terri Langdon of Operation: MOM. The drop-off locations will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Sunday, Feb. 16.

Operation MOM: has several focal areas. It's a support group for family and friends of those in active military service. It also provides direct support to military personnel overseas through letters of encouragement, food packages and other necessities. It supports all branches of the military, reminding the troops that they are valued by the folks back home.

For this weekend's collection, requests include food items of individual sizes including ground coffee, instant hot chocolate, beef, jerky, dried fruits and nuts, mints, gum, microwave popcorn, and lightweight foods which cannot spoil or become crushed.

Trial-size containers of sanitary hand wipes, waterless hand cleaner, Q-tips, lip balm, tissue, shampoo, feminine hygiene products and vitamins are also requested.

Entertainment items such as playing cards, magazines, short stories, word puzzle books and international phone cards are welcome as are boxes, packing materials and tape.

Monetary donations (payable to Operation: MOM) are welcome. These may be mailed to: Operation: MOM, P.O. BOX 1096 ANTIOCH CA 94509 .

For information email us at: info@operationmom.org or call us at (510) 909-2714.

This editorial is no longer available on the Tribune website due to the age of the document

CONTRA COSTA TIMES 06-25-2010

Contra Costa Times
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At age 21, Ryan Garrett has already spent a year of his young life in Iraq, serving in the Army as a cavalry scout.

"He joined the Army in 2007, right after he graduated from Encinal High," said his mother, Denise Langowski. "He always wanted to join the military."

For Langowski, the days and nights of not knowing if her son is in harm's way are difficult.

"It's really hard even with the Internet and Skype and cell phone calls," she said. "We're at the mercy of their calls, good or bad. It's really hard on his 7-year-old sister, Samantha. She said on Veterans Day at school no one seemed to care about it."

Garrett is now stationed in Germany, waiting to begin flight school to learn how to fly helicopters. While her son pursued his military dreams overseas, his mother needed to do something to relieve the chronic worry about him and to help other soldiers and their families. She found what she was seeking through Operation Mom, a national volunteer organization that provides emotional support for military families and supplies for their deployed family members.

Operation Mom's local chapter is based in Hayward.

"I went to a meeting and walked into this fabulous group of people who instantly made me feel welcome," Langowski said. "There are even people in the group who don't have family or friends in the military; they just want to support the troops. It's a place to cry and talk about your kids without feeling like you're bragging." Langowski has scheduled an Alameda collection day for cash donations and items that Operation Mom members will box up and send to deployed personnel. The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 3 at the Veterans Building, 2203 Central Ave.

Any donated cash goes 100 percent to pay for postage and supplies, Langowski said. Welcome items include memory sticks for computers, nonperishable foods such as microwaveable macaroni and cheese or rice, powder drinks, comfort items such as shampoos, soaps, baby wipes (liquid hand sanitizers "turn to goop in sand" Langowski said. Other needs are men's and women's magazines such as hot rod publications or "Rolling Stone," socks, washcloths, books, DVDs, prepaid phone cards and other items that would bring comfort.

"If you have a deployed family member bring an address. We'll make sure they get a box," Langowski said.

Jane Fellows is another Alamedan who has children in the military. Twins Kenny and Shaun, 19, enlisted in the Army after graduating from Alameda High School. Shaun, a combat engineer, has been in Afghanistan since December and Kenny, a cavalry scout, will go in July.

"I met Denise at a barbecue, and she's been a big help to me," Fellows said. "I'm not prepared for kids in military during wartime. I have so much pride for both my sons even though it's not a job I would have picked for them. I have the best support of family and friends, but no matter what, it's hard. Operation Mom is wonderful. "

Operation Mom includes all family and friends of active personnel in any branch of the military. It is nonpolitical and nonreligious.

"Operation Mom means there is someone you can call in the middle of the night," Langowski said. "There is always somebody to support you and listen to your story. I know Jane and I aren't the only military families in Alameda. Come join us at Operation Mom."

To see this on their website, click here:
http://www.eastbaytimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_15368872
CONTRA COSTA TIMES 03-18-2009

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Military mothers' groups grow as wars continue

By John Simerman Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/18/2009 04:10:22 PM PDT

A Vietnam Veterans Group San Quentin hat sits in front of Gloria Godchaux of Operation: Mom as she talks about the group in Richmond, Calif. on Wednesday, March 18, 2009.

For Dotty Selmeczki, the memories surface easily of those chilling days six years ago when President George W. Bush launched the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Those were the days when Selmeczki knew little about where her son might be, except that Marine reconnaissance sniper Casey Calderan almost surely rode in harm's way.

She said she sees herself reflected in the freshly frazzled faces that now show up at "Operation: Mom" support meetings in a veterans hall in Hayward. Previously, only about a dozen mostly Marine Corps mothers would gather in her Castro Valley living room for tea, sympathy and care-packaging.

"Last time we had three new moms, and sitting there reminded me so much of where we began. The same fears, same worries, same anxiety," Selmeczki said. "The reality of it all hasn't changed. A mom's heart never changes."

What has changed since 2003 is the reach of the group, which Selmeczki and Gloria Godchaux of Antioch started modestly to support their military children. Now, it encompasses three groups in California, with another support group in Iowa.

Since 2003, Operation: Mom has raised about a half-million dollars, sent thousands of care packages overseas, comforted military spouses, launched a scholarship fund and helped four Bay Area families cope with the combat deaths of loved ones.

Another group, Blue Star Moms, founded in San Ramon by a trio of military moms, also has grown. The chapter, now with about 100 active members, has funded thousands of care packages, supported wounded veterans returning home, comforted families of the war dead and helped new branches sprout across the state. Blue Star Moms chapters now operate across California, including in Antioch, Brentwood, the Modesto area, Pacifica, Santa Cruz, the South Bay and Vacaville.

Together, the two East Bay groups have made the region a hub for unabashed troop support efforts, despite — or perhaps arising from — the region's thick anti-war strain.

It may be a little of both, said Peggy Conklin of San Ramon, who cofounded the Blue Star Moms chapter here after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Families who have loved ones serving in the military are so incredibly proud of their loved ones' willingness to step up and serve their country, especially in a time of war, I don't think there's anything anybody could do or say that could change that feeling," she said.

These are days of sober memories for Conklin, whose three soldier sons have served a combined 16 deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Her oldest son, Chris, entered the war early, and later suffered shrapnel wounds on his birthday, in April 2003. He is fine now, she said, and in Army officer candidate school.

"All these dates are in our minds right now," she said.

The November election and President Barack Obama's call for an eventual troop withdrawal from Iraq has done little to slow the groups down. In some ways, the expected surge of troops into Afghanistan marks a return to the pleas for basics — snacks, deodorant, candy — that marked the early part of the Iraq War, Selmeczki said.

It wasn't just members of military families who packed those sacks. The group once got an eager hand from a group of veteran inmates at San Quentin State Prison, most of them serving life sentences.

Her son recalls those packages fondly.

"Food, candy, cookies, toilet paper. Toilet paper was a big one," said Calderan, now a Richmond police officer.

John Simerman covers military affairs. Reach him at 925-943-8072 or jsimerman@bayareanewsgroup.com.

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document
CONTRA COSTA TIMES 08-13-2003

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CONTRA COSTA TIMES 04-10-2003

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Posted on Thu, Apr. 10, 2003

AROUND DUBLIN: ALAN ELIAS
Operation: MOM well under way

EACH MORNING, the custodian of Dougherty Elementary School raises the American flag up the pole at the front of the school.

And each morning, as the Stars and Stripes rise into the air, Joyce's thoughts are transformed thousands of miles away to the battlefields of Iraq, where her 22-year-old son Daniel, a Marine lance corporal, is fighting to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Joyce's motherly concerns for the safety of her son and the other men and women of the U.S. and British armed forces are not lost on the students or faculty of Dougherty. Joyce has been receiving a strong outpouring of support as part of "Operation: MOM," which works to gather, package and ship toiletries and sundries to the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"I've always felt patriotic. I became active when Desert Storm was going on. I decorated the school with yellow ribbons. And I never thought that it would be my son fighting the next time," says Joyce.

Operation: MOM volunteers had been waiting for approval from the military before sending packages to the soldiers. That came just last week, when the first 87 boxes were shipped to Iraq. The next shipment is scheduled to be sent Friday, and will include a variety of items the soldiers will certainly welcome, including cleaning wipes, eye drops, toothpaste and beef jerky, to name just a few of the carefully screened items.

What Joyce says has really touched her heart has been the support of children, including one first-grade boy who used all of his allowance to buy a variety of items to ship to the soldiers.

And then there's the many letters the kids have been writing to her son Daniel, including a note completely penned by Julia, a first-grader at Dougherty, who says she is praying for him to come home safely.

"What you are doing for our country is very brave," writes Julia, who added a handmade cross necklace for the lance corporal to wear for good luck. Joyce says some of the kids also have decided to write jokes for the soldiers, so they can take their minds -- for a minute -- off the battlefields.

Joyce is quick to point out that other schools in Dublin, including Dublin High School where her oldest son works as a custodian and also raises the flag there each morning, have been supportive of the effort and are contributing supplies and letters.

Operation: MOM chapters are beginning to spring up in the area. Besides a Tri-Valley group that Joyce is part of, there's also one in Antioch, Castro Valley and one expected to get organized in Tracy.

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document

You can find out more information by logging on to www.operationmom.org or by contacting Joyce at 925-443-9572.
CONTRA COSTA TIMES 04-03-2003

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Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2003

Rally to Support Troops set at City Hall Tuesday
CONTRA COSTA TIMES (Antioch)

STAFF REPORT

ANTIOCH - Trees festooned with yellow ribbons to honor U.S. troops overseas and a program of patriotic songs will highlight Antioch's "Support our troops" rally at 5:29 p.m. Tuesday.

A flag raising and a moment of silence at the flagpole outside City Hall will open the ceremonies at Third and H streets.

A bugle rendition of taps by Sea Cadet Andrew Strausbaugh will be followed by a walk to the El Campanil theater led by the Travis Air Force Base honor guard. The program continues at the theater with singing by Briana Soule and Jim Martin. The yellow ribbons will adorn trees on Second Street.

Antioch Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6435 honor guard will present flying military service flags.

Councilman Arne Simonsen cently presented the city the post quartermaster's gift of a POW flag to fly below the U.S. flag at City Hall until the troops all come home.

Clergy from the Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish Traditions will offer inspirational words and prayers.

Volunteers from Operation Mom will distribute yellow ribbons and "Until they all come home" lapel pins.

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document

CONTRA COSTA TIMES 03-26-2003

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Posted on Wed, Mar. 26, 2003

Livermore to host troop gift drop-offs
CONTRA COSTA TIMES

LIVERMORE - The City Council has agreed to allow various public buildings, such as City Hall and city libraries, to be used as drop-off stations for donated snacks and hygiene items to be sent to American troops in Iraq.

"We need to show our men and women in the Middle East that we're thinking about them," Kristin Ekvall of Livermore, local coordinator of Operation: MOM, told the council Monday night.

At the request of Operation: MOM, the council informally authorized City Manager Linda Barton to provide a small pot of city money to help pay postage for boxes of items sent overseas. Barton said Tuesday the amount would probably be under $5,000.

Operation: MOM is a support group of family and friends of American service members. Ekvall's 21-year-old son, Marine Cpl. Jason Myers, is stationed in Iraq.

Needed items include travel-size packets of baby wipes for soldiers unable to shower regularly, black socks, beef jerky, writing paper and envelopes, travel-size lip and skin sunscreen and Visine eye drops.

Snack items could include such things as protein bars and packets of powdered drink mix to help improve the taste of water.

Ekvall said she plans to ask the Dublin and Pleasanton city councils for support similar to that given by Livermore.

For information on Operation: MOM, go to its Web site at www.operationmom.org or call Ekvall at 925-443-7841.

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document

CONTRA COSTA TIMES 03-21-2003

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Operation Mom' eases family fears
March 21, 2003 (Page A7)

Parent networks soothe those whose loved ones serve in the U.S. military during the war on Iraq .

By Dogen Hannah and Kiley Russell TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Linda and Rich Silverman know the fears that prey on parents of children fighting a war.
Twice now, their 32-year-old son, Matt, has heeded his country's call to arms in the Middle East. In 1991, the Army helicopter pilot served in Operation Desert Storm, and he is now helping U.S. forces coordinate air operations over Iraq.

"We're very concerned," Rich Silverman said. "We're nervous, afraid, apprehensive - all the words any time a child's in harm's way."

Now they and other families who have been through this wringer before find themselves comforting those who have not. In some cases, anxious parents have found solace in the reassuring words of their children.

That's what happened Wednesday morning when Rich Silverman answered the phone at work and heard his son's voice. Father and son joked a bit, taking the edge off the hint that something could happen soon.

"He said: 'I wanted to let you know that I'm OK,'" Linda Silverman said.
On Thursday, less than 24 hours after U.S. forces attacked Iraq, Linda Silverman answered the phone to hear the anxious voice of a friend, a single mother whose son is on an aircraft carrier near Iraq.

"She sounded kind of worried and upset," Linda Silverman said. "I talked to her for about 20 minutes and got her calmed down."

Since the war began, the phone has been ringing in Claudia Strongman's house as well.
The Antioch resident is a member of Operation Mom, a support group of family and friends of men and women in the armed forces.
The group sends care packages - "little touches of home" - to soldiers, sailors and aviators who may not have family looking out for them, Strongman said. In addition, the group's members gain some peace of mind from sharing their fears and hopes.

"We're just checking in with each other," said Strongman, whose 21-year-old son Adam is serving in the Army. "The folks that I'm talking to are praying. Their faith carries them on."

In San Ramon, Peggy Conklin has joined a similar support group, Blue Star Moms, consisting mostly of women with children in the military. In turn, she comforts her husband when he frets over their two sons serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment in the Persian Gulf.

"My wife is kind of my support group," Mike Conklin said. "If I'm feeling kind of punky, like I am today, I stay home and go for walks with my chocolate lab, Buddy. That's my therapy."

Other parents draw support from their children's dedication. It is comforting, said Pleasanton's Delia Muniz, to know that her 22-year-old son, Antoni Jose Valencia, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot, has the strength of his convictions.

"He's not scared," Muniz said. "His courage puts my mind at ease."

She also takes comfort in frequent phone calls from friends and family. Still, Muniz, a single mother, doesn't seem entirely worry-free, and an edge of fear crept into her voice as she, described the dangers her son could face.

"I'm just hoping that God is looking down on (the soldiers) and is there with them," Muniz said. "If I can't be there, I'll send Him."

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document

TRI-CITY VOICE 03-05-2008

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Greeting veterans with cheer

Submitted By Debbi Dresser
Photos By courtesy of Debbi Dresser
03-05-2008

Operation: MOM has gone to the VA Hospital in Palo Alto for the past three years at Christmas time to deliver stockings filled with candy, cards and other goodies, as well as caroling, but felt once a year was not enough.

They recently visited to bring Valentine's Day greetings to the veterans, some of whom remembered them from Christmas. Cards, which were made and donated by students at the Principled Academy in San Leandro and Family Bible Fellowship in Newark, as well as other goodies, were distributed.

Many of the men and women at the VA Hospital do not have family nearby so it makes them very happy to have visitors.

Operation: MOM's next visit will include a BBQ sometime after April.

You can see this event on their website by following this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 11-28-2007

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Operation: MOM and you


By Shari Wargo
Photos By by Shari Wargo

Fremont resident Beverley Grenz' son Jeff, a CW2 Maintenance Officer for a repair team serving in the Iraq FIRES Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, emailed her in October saying that long work hours and military life so far from friends and family is very hard for many young guys in his group. He told her that he was going to dress up as Santa to increase morale, but needed suggestions and support from others. So Grenz went to work making signs and posting them at work, her hair dresser and churches asking for donations and cards. She received donations of vitamins, cards, games, toiletries, DVDs, socks, and paper for the troops.

Grenz made three dozen or so homemade butter cookies with homemade frosting in Christmas shapes and wrote the name of each soldier in her son's group on their own Christmas stocking. Fremont resident Margie Saenz helped Grenz stuff 19 Christmas stockings with donations. These two packed 19 individual boxes with stockings, cookie boxes, and bags of letter paper, envelopes, and pens for this lucky Army repair team.

Grenz and Saenz aren't the only family and friends packing gifts and supplies to support US troops this holiday season. On Sunday, Nov. 18, Operation: MOM held a holiday packaging gathering for over 600 soldiers.

Operation: MOM is a support group for the whole family, not just moms. They serve friends, siblings, fathers, children, and all branches of military personnel. Located throughout the country, Operation: MOM headquarters is in Castro Valley, currently the only group serving the Bay Area.

Operation: MOM brought all of their donations to the Teamsters Hall in Hayward, which had been donated for their use to pack holiday boxes for military personnel overseas. When they arrived, They were pleasantly surprised to find high school students, residents, church groups, the 4-H Club, FW Post 9601 Castro Valley, and volunteers from the Moose Lodge show up to help as well.

"We were totally blown away by how many people showed. There were over 150 people who helped," said Debbi Dresser, project coordinator for Operation: MOM.

Within three hours, volunteers completed 650 boxes at Sunday's holiday pack for the troops. "There were DVDs, CDs, blankets, wash clothes, disposable cameras, socks, ornaments, and candy in the packages. We have flat rate boxes so we really pack them" said Dresser. She added that they are still getting more names of soldiers who need packages and letters, and now have over 1,000 total names (including the 650 already completed) waiting for holiday boxes.

The names of soldiers overseas are turned in to Operation: MOM, some by families in the Bay Area, but from all over the country as well. To support all of our troops who need the reminder that they are not forgotten. Operation: MOM sends every soldier whose name is submitted, a package and letters.

The next big group pack event will be in March, but in the meantime, there are still plenty of ways to show your support. The Elks Lodge in Fremont and Pete's Hardware in Castro Valley are still accepting donations for Operation: MOM. Dresser said Operation: MOM needs donations of dried snacks, microwavable ravioli, tuna packets, and socks. Other donations, excluding glass or liquids and pork products, are also welcome.

Dresser added that she began to connect with women and organizations around the country to design and create homemade cards for the troops through Operation: MOM. "We started this with Mother's Day cards... it has really taken off," Dresser told TCV. One mother, whose son was overseas, told Dresser that the handmade Mother's Day card was the only piece of mail she had received from her son, and it meant so much to her. Soldiers have also returned a positive response by emailing Dresser to ask for more cards, and as they leave, giving Dresser's email address to their replacements. "We collect handmade and store bought cards to send to the troops because they don't have Hallmark in Iraq. [These cards] mean a lot to the soldiers and their families" She said.

Handmade cards for all occasions and seasons are still needed from the Bay area. To donate a handmade or store bought card for Operation: MOM, email Dresser at pfcrensmom-cardsfortroops@yahoo.com.

Coupons can also help soldiers, even if they are expired. Overseas military can use coupons, even those that have expired.

For more information about Operation: MOM, where to send handmade or store bought cards, donation locations and what donations are needed, or where to send coupons visit www.operationmom.org.


You can see this event on their website by following this link

TRI-CITY VOICE 3-05-2008

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Operation:MOM Scholarship Fund
By Emma Victoria G. Blanco
03-05-2008

Operation:MOM, a non-profit organization based in Castro Valley, whose mission is to support the family and friends of the men and women serving in the U.S. Military, is proud to present the launch of its annual Scholarship Fund.

The Operation: MOM Scholarship Fund will assist the dependents of U.S. Military needing financial assistance for college or vocational education. The Scholarship Fund will contribute to Operation: MOM's overall mission of supporting the families of all branches of the military. "Students across the country can apply as long as they meet the application criteria," said Linda Little, retired high school teacher of 34 years, two-time Masonic Teacher of the Year and one of three educators that make up the Operation: MOM Scholarship Advisory Board, which will manage the scholarship program. "We hope to receive a lot of applications this first year," Little added.

To apply, candidates must be a dependent of a U.S. military parent, veteran or legal guardian, have a minimum 3.0 cumulative high school grade point average, and be currently enrolled at an accredited college, university or vocational school. There are no restrictions on race, religion, sex, branch of service of parent or guardian, or geographic location.

The selection process will involve review of the applications and interviews in person or via telephone. Once the Board receives confirmation of the scholarship recipient's enrollment, the scholarship award will be deposited with the school and may be used for tuition and/or books.

Depending on funds available and the number of qualified applicants, a minimum of one and maximum of three $1,500 scholarships will be awarded. The application deadline is Tuesday, April 1.

www.operationmom.org.

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TRI-CITY VOICE 02-27-2008

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Operation: MOM launches new scholarship

Submitted By Sandra Martinez
02-07-2008

Operation: MOM, a military family support group, is launching their new program; the Operation: MOM Scholarship Fund. Given annually, a minimum of one, and a maximum of three, $1500 scholarships will assist the dependents of U.S. Military needing financial assistance for college or vocational education.

Managing the scholarship program will be the Operation: MOM Scholarship Advisory Board, consisting of three honored educators from the San Francisco Bay Area. Gloria Godchaux, Co-founder of Operation: MOM, Jefferson Award Recipient and educator; Linda Little, retired high school teacher of 34 years and two-time Masonic Teacher of the Year, and Joe Farias, retired National Guard Colonel and former high school principal and Lions Club President.

Scholarship applications are available online, along with Operation: MOM's other programs; Little Touch of Home and the Wounded Hero Fund, the Scholarship Fund will contribute to the overall mission of supporting the families of all branches of the military. "Operation: MOM is very excited about our new scholarship program.

With this, we can continue our support of the families of our Military. We are hopeful that this program will allow them to reach their goals of higher education," said Operation: MOM's President, Margaret Paredes. Operation: MOM groups are currently located in four San Francisco Bay Area counties and, Fredericksburg, Iowa.

All scholarship applications must be turned in by April 1. For more information about Operation: MOM and the Scholarship Fund, visit www.operationmom.org or call (510) 538-8806.

You may view this editorial on their website by following this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 11-28-2007

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Operation: MOM and you
11-28-2007

By Shari Wargo
Photos By by Shari Wargo


Fremont resident Beverley Grenz' son Jeff, a CW2 Maintenance Officer for a repair team serving in the Iraq FIRES Squadron, 2nd Stryker Calvary Regiment, emailed her in October saying that long work hours and military life so far from friends and family is very hard for many young guys in his group. He told her that he was going to dress up as Santa to increase morale, but needed suggestions and support from others. So Grenz went to work making signs and posting them at work, her hair dresser and churches asking for donations and cards. She received donations of vitamins, cards, games, toiletries, DVDs, socks, and paper for the troops.

Grenz made three dozen or so homemade butter cookies with homemade frosting in Christmas shapes and wrote the name of each soldier in her son's group on their own Christmas stocking. Fremont resident Margie Saenz helped Grenz stuff 19 Christmas stockings with donations. These two packed 19 individual boxes with stockings, cookie boxes, and bags of letter paper, envelopes, and pens for this lucky Army repair team.

Grenz and Saenz aren't the only family and friends packing gifts and supplies to support US troops this holiday season. On Sunday, Nov. 18, Operation: MOM held a holiday packaging gathering for over 600 soldiers.

Operation: MOM is a support group for the whole family, not just moms. They serve friends, siblings, fathers, children, and all branches of military personnel. Located throughout the country, Operation: MOM headquarters is in Castro Valley, currently the only group serving the Bay Area.

Operation: MOM brought all of their donations to the Teamsters Hall in Hayward, which had been donated for their use to pack holiday boxes for military personnel overseas. When they arrived, They were pleasantly surprised to find high school students, residents, church groups, the 4-H Club, FW Post 9601 Castro Valley, and volunteers from the Moose Lodge show up to help as well.

"We were totally blown away by how many people showed. There were over 150 people who helped," said Debbi Dresser, project coordinator for Operation: MOM.

Within three hours, volunteers completed 650 boxes at Sunday's holiday pack for the troops. "There were DVDs, CDs, blankets, wash clothes, disposable cameras, socks, ornaments, and candy in the packages. We have flat rate boxes so we really pack them" said Dresser. She added that they are still getting more names of soldiers who need packages and letters, and now have over 1,000 total names (including the 650 already completed) waiting for holiday boxes.

The names of soldiers overseas are turned in to Operation: MOM, some by families in the Bay Area, but from all over the country as well. To support all of our troops who need the reminder that they are not forgotten. Operation: MOM sends every soldier whose name is submitted, a package and letters.

The next big group pack event will be in March, but in the meantime, there are still plenty of ways to show your support. The Elks Lodge in Fremont and Pete's Hardware in Castro Valley are still accepting donations for Operation: MOM. Dresser said Operation: MOM needs donations of dried snacks, microwavable ravioli, tuna packets, and socks. Other donations, excluding glass or liquids and pork products, are also welcome.

Dresser added that she began to connect with women and organizations around the country to design and create homemade cards for the troops through Operation: MOM. "We started this with Mother's Day cards... it has really taken off," Dresser told TCV. One mother, whose son was overseas, told Dresser that the handmade Mother's Day card was the only piece of mail she had received from her son, and it meant so much to her. Soldiers have also returned a positive response by emailing Dresser to ask for more cards, and as they leave, giving Dresser's email address to their replacements. "We collect handmade and store bought cards to send to the troops because they don't have Hallmark in Iraq. [These cards] mean a lot to the soldiers and their families" She said.

Handmade cards for all occasions and seasons are still needed from the Bay area. To donate a handmade or store bought card for Operation: MOM, email Dresser at pfcrensmom-cardsfortroops@yahoo.com.

Coupons can also help soldiers, even if they are expired. Overseas military can use coupons, even those that have expired.

For more information about Operation: MOM, where to send handmade or store bought cards, donation locations and what donations are needed, or where to send coupons visit www.operationmom.org.



You can see this event on their website by following this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 11-28-2007

Tri-City Voice
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Greeting veterans with cheer
11-28-2007

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TRI-CITY VOICE 10-16-2007

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Packages for Fremont Soldiers to Make a Difference
Submitted By Geeta Kadambi
10-16-2007

Make a Difference Day is approaching. As a part of this special day in our community organizations around the area are holding different events to make our cities better both in preparation of and on the official day. As a part of this special event, the Fremont Girl Scout troop is packing care packages to send to Fremont soldiers who are in Iraq.

Operation Mom representatives, and Army representatives with some World War II veterans are going to be present. The Master Masons, Order of the Eastern Star & International Order of the Rainbow for girls from the Bay Area are also participating. So, boxes will be packed and handed over to the Army on that day. Volunteers are still needed.

Please call for more information on how you can help with sending care packages to our home town heroes. Packages for Fremont Soldiers Fremont Community Center 40000 Paseo Padre Parkway (510) 252-1277 snogare@ci.fremont.ca.us

You can see this event on their website by following this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 10-17-2006

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Support our troops by enjoying food
10-17-2006

Operation Mom provides direct support to our military personnel currently serving in the Armed Forces by sending letters of encouragement, food packages and other necessities needed and appreciated by our troops.

Their motto is "Our family - your freedom." The soldiers appreciate their efforts. "Just the name mom brings comfortable thoughts of home," says a soldier on Operation Mom's website. "When you are so far from home it's nice to know that people care and are thinking about you." Now that the holidays are approaching, Operation Mom, a nonprofit organization, is holding their annual "Christmas for the Troops Spaghetti Feed" in the Niles district of Fremont.

This is a chance for everyone to show support for our troops overseas. Proceeds will go toward filling up packages to send to the troops for Christmas.

For more information call Maggie at (510) 582-1424 or Sandra at (510) 207-8299. You can also visit their website
www.operationmom.org.

For more information on Operation Mom you can visit TCV's online archives at www.tricityvoice.com. Christmas For the Troops Spaghetti Feed Saturday, Oct. 28 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

Niles Veterans Memorial Building 37154 2nd. St., Fremont Tickets are $10 adults, $5 for children 3-12, and under 3 free.

Musical entertainment by Kim Kelly

To see this event on their website please follow this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 06-20-2006

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Operation MOM

by Vidya Pradhan


On a cool spring day in 2004, Diane Layfield heard the worst; Lance Corporal Travis J. Layfield was killed in action. He was her oldest son.

Travis, a Marine assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed in a battle in Iraq's Anbar province, a mere three weeks after his arrival in Iraq.

Two years have passed, but for Diane, not a day goes by without remembering her brave son, sometimes with a smile, sometimes with tears. She recalls his courage, determination and hard work toward his single-minded dream of joining the armed forces. Four years of Navy Sea Cadet training convinced Travis he wanted to be a Marine. The teen enlisted while still a junior in high school and never regretted it. In fact, in calls home from Camp Pendleton, he described the battalion as his new family.

For Diane, the traumatic loss of her son would have been impossible to bear without the support groups formed to help members of military families through the grieving process. One of these groups, Operation MOM, helped her so much that Diane decided to get involved with the group so that she could reach out to others enduring similar losses.

During WWII, some mothers with children on active duty formed a support group called Today, with chapters in each of the military branches. Operation MOM was then conceived to encompass all branches under one organization. Presently, family and friends of active personnel are welcomed to the group as are those whose children have served in the past. Their motto is, "Our family- your freedom."

Apart from working as a support group at home, Operation MOM also provides direct aid to military personnel deployed overseas by writing letters and sending food packages and other necessities that remind our troops of how much they are supported and loved. Periodically, the members meet to assemble care packages for shipment overseas.

Operation MOM also sells T-shirts and other products honoring the troops. The proceeds go toward the packages and also to help needy military families. Recently, the group helped out Army Sgt. Brian Wells and his family after he was critically injured in the line of duty.

Support groups such as these were the lifeline Diane needed after her devastating loss. She says that others mean well, but the loss is hard to understand for those who don't have children in the military. After Travis' death, her social circle gradually began to revolve around members of military families because she found it easier to connect with them and share her experiences. Their sympathy, understanding and counseling proved invaluable.

Her home, which she maintains as a shrine to her son, is filled with outpourings of love and support. The walls are covered with portraits, posters and wreaths in Travis' memory. Complete strangers have written moving letters and poems honoring her son.

Now Diane counsels grieving families, herself. Every day calls and emails come in from all over the country asking her to visit, share her experiences and help to make sense of the stresses and strains of military life. Sad as it was, Travis' passing led Diane to her new calling in life. "I feel that maybe I can give back just a little bit of all that they gave to me. Travis always said, 'Mom, this is my new family, these are my brothers.' I feel he would want me to send them cards and letters and let them know they are in my thoughts."

Along with her work with Operation MOM, Travis' desires to help his military brothers compelled his mom to support another worthy organization, Soldiers' Angels. This group was started by the mother of a soldier in Iraq who has since returned home safely. In the summer of 2003, he wrote his mom, expressing his concern that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. Patti Patton-Bader, mother of Sgt. Brandon Varn, decided to address this concern. She contacted a few friends and extended family to ask if they would write to a soldier or two.

Within a few short months, Soldiers' Angels went from a mother writing a few extra letters to an Internet community with thousands of angels worldwide and growing stronger daily.

Organizations such as Operation MOM and Soldiers' Angels need the support of the community as well as new members. For more information, visitwww.operationmom.org and www.soldiersangels.org.

Mark July 22 on your calendars and join Operation MOM's next packing meeting at the Teamsters Hall in Hayward. Call (510) 582-4611 for details.

Operation MOM packing meeting July 22 8 a.m. to. 3 p.m. Teamster's Hall 492 C Street, Hayward

Currently Operation MOM is in need of office space in the Castro Valley-Hayward-San Lorenzo area so that they can process donations. If you have a vacant office, storefront, or warehouse space they can occupy for free or at a reduced price, please call Dotty at (510) 582-4611.



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TRI-CITY VOICE 03-20-2006

Tri-City Voice
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Families of fallen soldiers share memories
By Chris De Benedetti, STAFF WRITER
POSTED:   03/20/2006 02:31:16 AM PST | UPDATED:   10 YEARS AGO



For Diane Layfield, this is a time of painful anniversaries.
The mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield soon will honor the anniversary of her son's death during a firefight in Iraq on April 6, 2004, with a dinner at his favorite restaurant in Newark.

Her voice cracks with emotion when she is reached March 17 as she mentions that St. Patrick's Day is the second anniversary of the last time she spoke on the phone with her eldest son. The war in Iraq began exactly three years ago Sunday — another painful milestone for Layfield's family.

They are not alone in their grief.

Since the war began in 2003, more than 2,300 American troops have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded. The war's anniversary is a day of remembrance for all Americans, but especially for the family and friends of fallen troops from the Tri-City area and throughout the country who have died in combat in Iraq. In recent interviews with The Argus, some of those family members spoke of how they are coping with their loss, with some sharing their opinions about the ongoing war.

Army Sgt. Timothy Craig Kiser

When Jacquie Kiser drove past military personnel parked in a car near her Milpitas home, she noticed them. When there was a knock on her door moments later, she was afraid to open it.

"I knew right away," she said.

The military personnel were there to tell her that her son, Timothy Kiser, an Irvington High School graduate who grew up in Fremont, had been killed April 28, 2005, by a roadside bomb near Kirkuk.


Kiser served in the 340th Forward Support Battalion, 40th Infantry Division, California Army National Guard, based in Red Bluff. Months after his death, Timothy's unit mailed Jacquie Kiser a tribute video to her son that she said has helped her cope with her grief.

"You have to force yourself to look at (the video) in order to heal," she said. "It's still hard, but it has gotten better. There's not a day goes by I don't think of him." She adds that her view on the war has not changed since it began.

"I think it's a waste. I don't think (Iraqis) want us there. I think we should pull out so we don't have to lose any more of our people," she said. Her surviving son, James Kiser, agrees.

"I don't think we should be over there. I think they should protect American citizens here," said the Irvington High alumnus who now lives in Manteca. "You've got people in the streets here starving to death, and we're spending billions over there trying to change people."

James Kiser remembers his brother as an outgoing and funny "all-around good guy" who liked to joke around a lot. He chuckles as he recalls Timothy leaving prank telephone messages on James' voice mail. But James Kiser's voice darkens when talking about the lack of protection on the Humvee that carried his brother the day he died.

"What I don't understand is, with all the technology the military has, ... if they're going to send guys out, knowing all the bombs are in the road, they should give them the right kind of equipment."

Like his mother, James Kiser says it has been hard to deal with his brother's death, though it gets better as time goes on.

"When it first happened, we were pretty destroyed, but we're getting through it," he said.

Army Sgt. Cheyenne Willey

Cheyenne Willey was killed Dec. 23, 2005, when his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device near Baghdad. He was 36.

At the funeral for her brother, held Jan. 8 in Fremont, family and friends remembered Cheyenne Willey as a courageous, caring and passionate man who was proud to serve in the military. His sister Stacy Willey, who last spoke to Cheyenne through Instant Messenger just days before his death, described him as "an amazing person who always had lessons to teach me."

Willey moved in 1987 from Illinois to Fremont, where his mother and stepfather, Patsy and Charles Miller, still live. He eventually worked for and befriended Thomas McHugh, who runs a plaster and lathing shop in Tracy. At Willey's funeral, McHugh told humorous stories about the fun they had on fishing trips, showing the soldier's lighter side. McHugh also spoke of Willey's service in Iraq with the Army Reserve's 351st Civil Affairs Command, based in Mountain View.

"He felt (re-enlisting) was his duty, something he had to do," McHugh said. "He was proud, and he did it with a smile on his face. He is truly a hero."

Marine Lance Cpl. Aaron Boyles

Aaron Boyles was killed by enemy fire in Iraq's Al Anbar province in September 2004, just weeks before his 25th birthday. Boyles, who transferred to Newark High School just three months before graduating in 1998, served in the 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, based in Twentynine Palms.

At the time of his death, his wife, Prabha Boyles, was pregnant with their son. The couple met while both were employed at Wal-Mart in Union City, and they were married July 4, 2003, a date Boyles chose as a patriotic gesture.
Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Layfield

Her two children deal differently with the grief of their brother's death, Diane Layfield said. While her daughter, Tiffany, is more emotional — "like me," Layfield says — her son, Tyler, is more the quiet type.

For Tyler Layfield, time has not eased the pain of losing his older brother on an Iraqi battlefield.

"Our family has been and still is torn up," said the Washington High School graduate. "I can't say it gets easier. Every day is still hard."

Tyler added that he steers clear of any political views on the war. What he does know for sure, he says, is that every American should support the troops and their sacrifice.

"My brother gave his life for every single person in America," he said. "No matter what, they're fighting for you."

Like Jacquie Kiser, Diane Layfield knew something terrible had happened to her son when she saw military personnel approach her home.

"I started screaming, 'Not my Travis!'" she recalls.

A former Fremont resident now living in Sunnyvale, she spends most of her free time volunteering for various groups that support soldiers and their families, including Operation Mom, Blue Star Moms, Honor the Fallen and Hats Off America.

"Cindy Sheehan doesn't speak for me," Layfield said, adding that she does not care to share any of her political views.

Instead, Layfield channels her energy into helping parents of fallen troops cope with their similarly heartbreaking emotions. Layfield recommends making use of free counseling services that Veterans Affairs branches offer to military parents.

"I've met a lot of wonderful people on this unbelievable journey that Travis has put me on," she said. "He told me the Marines were his new family, so I consider them all my sons and daughters, and I want to support them any way I can."

Staff writer Chris De Benedetti can be reached at (510) 353-7002 or cdebenedetti@angnewspapers.com.


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TRI-CITY VOICE 05-30-2005

Tri-City Voice
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Special Home Town Event
Monday, May 30 2005 3:00 p.m.
Chabot College 25555 Hesperian Blvd, Hayward

Chapel of the Chimes presents "The Annual Memorial Day Veteran's Tribute"

Special Guests Roberta Cooper, Mayor of Hayward, Sheila Young, Mayor of San Leandro and representative Louise Tamayo from "Operation: MOM" to speak at the event.


Activities include: placement of wreaths at the foot of the memorial located in the Garden of Honor, Arroyo High School Band & Choir, Honor Guard of the 10th District American Legion, Pledge of Allegiance by the Cub Scout pack 603 Hayward, Two Bell Ceremony, gun salute, Posting Colors of over 15 local Veteran and service member groups, children's educational booth with Lulu the Clown, hot dogs and cold drinks.


This is a free event.


This function can be seen on their website by following this link
TRI-CITY VOICE 07-20-2004

Tri-City Voice
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Karts-N-Golf
07-20-2004

This international sport hosts professionals who compete in over 36 nations. Serious competitors on a variety of difficult "greens" vie for prestige and large cash prizes. Inches can be the difference between glory and also-ran status. It takes skill and nerves of steel to compete successfully. Is this a description of championship golf? Yes...and no.

This is the sport of "Mini Golf" and the wonderful part about it is that everyone can try it out without incurring outrageous greens fees, special equipment or groups of "serious" participants scoffing or verbally wishing you off the course. For most "duffers," participation is fun and enlivened by a variety of interesting and often fanciful obstacles. There are plenty of places to try your luck and skill at this sport and one of them is close by in the Tri-Cities. He says, "Some Seniors come here to play golf regularly and the batting cages are used by sports enthusiasts from 8 years old to 60 years old! We are basically a family fun center."

Darrell says that he is open to using one of the miniature golf courses as a fund-raiser for a worthy nonprofit group.

The Newark Chamber of Commerce has made use of the courses for an annual fundraising event and a San Jose chapter of "Operation: MOM," a support organization for soldiers and their friends and relatives, recently made use of Karts-N-Golf for a fundraiser. "I am interested in helping with more of these activities in the future," says Darrell. He is open to working with charitable organizations that need a venue for a fundraising event.
One of the nice things about Karts-N-Golf is that entertainment is pocketbook friendly. "You don't have to pay to enter and stand in line for a ride. Miniature golf is affordable and a fun hour or two for the whole family." He adds that for couples on dates, miniature golf is a great ice breaker. "We aren't like a movie where you simply sit and watch the action. At Karts-N-Golf, we provide people the chance to interact and have fun together with activities that can be challenging, competitive, and above all fun." Karts-N-Golf 34805 Ardenwood Blvd., Fremont (Across the street from Ardenwood Historic Farm) (510) 790-1616


This function can be seen on their website by following this link

CASTRO VALLEY FORUM 05-20-2011

Castro Valley Forum
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Operation is Mission of Support

Friday, 20 May 2011 11:36

Darlene Saunders of Castro Valley proudly holds a photo of her daughter Linda who was deployed to Iraq two years ago.

By Robert Souza


OPERATION: MOM

While gently wringing her hands, Darlene Saunders of Castro Valley talks about her thoughts and feelings when her daughter Linda was deployed to Iraq two years ago.

“Saying it was a difficult time for me is an understatement,” said Saunders who became depressed and overwhelmed by nagging thoughts of her daughter in the middle of a war zone.
It was an intervening friend in town who urged Saunders to attend an Operation: Mom meeting.
 
To say the group helped Saunders through the experience is another understatement.
 
“It was incredible. Everyone was extremely caring and we all talked about our sons and daughters who were deployed,” explained Saunders who is still active with Operation Mom and attends meetings and activities for the organization.
 
After the 9/11 attacks in New York, Dottie Selmeczki and Gloria Godchaux of Castro Valley formed Operation: Mom as a support mechanism since both had sons deployed through the Marines.
 
Membership fluctuates based on needs of families. It currently has 25 active members. Parents and family members of those in all branches of the military are welcome to the group which strives to support service personnel by sending packages overseas on a regular basis.
 
Just in the past decade, Operation: Mom has sent out 62,752 boxes of snacks, toiletries and personal items to sons and daughters in service across the globe.
 
Though her daughter returned stateside last year from Marine Corps duty, Darlene Saunders continues to drum up support for Operation: Mom: “They are a great group and the things they do for kids deployed are incredible.”
 

Visit www.operationmom.org or call 510-909-2714 to find out more about Operation: Mom and how you can support its efforts.

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CASTRO VALLEY FORUM 08-05-2008

Castro Valley Forum
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Packages from Home!
By : Robert Souza : 8/5/08

Two hundred gift packages were sent to Marines stationed at Camp Fallujah in Iraq last month, courtesy of Castro Valley’s Operation: MOM and San Ramon Eagle Scout David Homan.

“I was looking for a food charity for my Eagle project and my dad found Operation: MOM’s Website,” said Homan, a San Ramon High School senior. “I went to one of their meetings and asked how I could help out.”

Kathy Moudy of Operation: MOM recently received an email from USMC Unit Commander Captain Shaun W. Doheney, who sent pictures of members of his unit at Camp Fallujah, opening the packages with smiles on their faces.

“We are very appreciative of the wonderful generosity of David and Operation: MOM,” Capt. Doheney said.

Homan said the packages contained food and hygiene products, and each had a music CD, a very popular item with the sons and daughters overseas.

Formed shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by parents from Castro Valley and Antioch, Operation: MOM was organized to support both troops abroad and their stateside parents.

“David did it all, we only helped him as a resource to guide him on the project,” said Moudy who, like Homan, was surprised to receive photos from Iraq. “Its good to see a smile on their faces.”
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“We are very appreciative of the wonderful generosity of David and Operation: MOM,” Capt. Doheney said.

Homan said the packages contained food and hygiene products, and each had a music CD, a very popular item with the sons and daughters overseas.

Formed shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by parents from Castro Valley and Antioch, Operation: MOM was organized to support both troops abroad and their stateside parents.

“David did it all, we only helped him as a resource to guide him on the project,” said Moudy who, like Homan, was surprised to receive photos from Iraq. “Its good to see a smile on their faces.”

Moudy said that with more deployments to Afghanistan and the recent surge in Iraq, many more sons and daughters are going off to serve. “Some of the faces in the pictures we get can be our child or spouse, so it’s really rewarding to put a face to the package.”

Homan told the Forum he received a very special gift from Iraq: a folded American flag. “It was amazing. When I first saw it, I got the chills,” he said.

Operation: MOM meets once a month at Valley Baptist Church located at 19835 Lake Chabot Road. For more information on Operation MOM, log on to www.operationmom.org, or call 909-2714.

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Times website due to the age of the document
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM 05-06-2008

Castro Valley Forum
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Operation Mom
on Mother’s Day
By : Linda Sandsmark : 5/6/08

Longtime Castro Valley resident Chris “C.J.” Newell-Strodtbeck won’t be home with his mom this Mother’s Day, but he sent something precious in his place.

The young Airman First Class recently shipped home an American flag that flew over Camp Bucca where he is station in Iraq, as a gift for the citizens of Castro Valley.
His parents, Imagene and Brian, will carry the flag and his picture in Saturday’s Rowell Ranch Parade in his honor.

“I’d rather he be home, of course,” says Imagene. “But with the words that he’s expressed I can’t think of any more wonderful gift than the dedication of a young person serving in the military, because they truly are defending our freedom. I am just so in awe of these yough people who are leaving the comforts of their lives on behalf of us.”

C.J. is with the Air Force Expeditionary Security Forces. His mother says the last year has been full of milestones for her family. On Sept. 1, 2007, C.J. married his girlfriend Melissa. The next day he turned 22, and five days later he received his deployment orders. He entered combat training and was in Iraq by December.

But he didn’t forget Castro Valley, where he attended Proctor Elementary School, was a charter member of Creekside Middle School, and attended Castro Valley High until 2003. Now on active duty in Iraq, C.J. discovered that he could buy one of the American flags that flew over his camp. He bought one and shipped it home.

“He bought it specifically for the citizens of Castro Valley,” says Imagene. “It’s the first place he thought of. It will be presented at the Rowell Ranch Parade, and on July 12 will also be displayed at an A’s game.”

At a recent meeting of Operation: MOM (a support group for military families) in Castro Valley, Imagene added that anyone with a loved one in the military is invited to walk with her in the parade on Saturday.

“It would be cool if all the military families in Castro Valley brought an enlarged photo of their service member and walked behind the color guard at the Rowell Ranch Parade,” she says.

She adds that despite some anti-war sentiment, people do treat her son respectfully when he is in uniform. On a civilian plane flight C.J. actually received an unexpected standing ovation, and strangers even bought his lunch when he was shopping at Stoneridge Mall. Imagene is grateful for this support.

“I end my letters to him with ‘May God bless you, and may God bless America’,” says Imagene. Still, holidays can be tough for military families. “It’s always sad for moms on Mother’s Day when their sons and daughters are overseas,” says Linda Little, who is a part-time counselor at Castro Valley High School.

Little’s only child Trevor (also a Castro Valley High graduate) is a sergeant in the Army. Fortunately, Trevor is stationed in Colorado through June, when his five years of active duty will be complete. His service has included two stints in the Middle East. “It’s been four years since I’ve seen him on Mother’s Day.

Maybe I’ll get to meet him in Las Vegas this year, but we’re not sure yet,” says Little. She and Trevor are looking forward to the next stage of his life, which hopefully includes studying music in college.

Operation: MOM’s secretary, Janice Becerra-Scola, has been through the “military mom” experience twice. One son has finished his military service, and another, Lance Corporal Tomas Becerra, is still active in the Marines.

Through a stroke of good luck, Tomas is now stationed in Hawaii following his tour of duty in Iraq. Janice says she’s grateful to know her son is stateside this Mother’s Day but remembers vividly the times he was deployed overseas. “It’s hard any time. It’s not so much just Mother’s Day,” says Janice.

She recalled wanting to skip a Christmas party when her son was on active duty. “It just didn’t feel right celebrating. It’s hard to celebrate when they’re doing what they’re doing so far away,” she says. “When they’re deployed, you’re so scared and so proud at the same time.”

Though she considers Tomas’ assignment in Hawaii a blessing, Janice was also impressed with the communication capabilities in some areas of Iraq. Her son’s worksite was actually inside Saddam Hussein’s former palace within the Green Zone.

“They had access to what they called ‘morale phones’ there, and were able to call home once a week,” she says. The weekly calls helped alleviate much of the stress she felt during that time. It’s also helped her to talk with other mothers in the group who experience the same things.

Operation: MOM provides a local support network for military families. The group sends care packages (with items such as beef jerky, packets of trail mix, gummi snacks, insect repellant, vitamins, toothbrushes, floss, soap, etc.) to active members of all branches of the military.

Donation drop-off points include Pete’s Hardware, 2569 Castro Valley Blvd., and Allstate Insurance, 3034 Grove Way, Castro Valley.

They also raise funds to pay for special needs that arise from military deployment. As a fund-raiser, the group will hold its Fourth Annual Golf Tournament Fri. June 27 at Dublin Ranch Golf Course. Included is a $10,000 hole-in-one contest on a designated hole, BBQ lunch, tee prizes and raffle.

Tax-deductible entry fee is $150, $100 for active military. Call Margaret Parades (582-1424) or Janice Becerra-Scola (917-5505) for information.

Military families and others who support the troops are welcome at Operation: MOM’s monthly meetings, which are held 7 p.m. the first Thursday of each month at Valley Baptist Church, 19835 Lake Chabot Rd., Castro Valley. Call Dotty Selmeczki at 909-2714 or Kathy Moudy at 861-6662 for more information.


This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Forum website due to the age of the document
CASTRO VALLEY FORUM 04-10-2003

Castro Valley Forum
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Posted on Thu, Apr. 10, 2003

AROUND DUBLIN: ALAN ELIAS
Operation: MOM well under way

EACH MORNING, the custodian of Dougherty Elementary School raises the American flag up the pole at the front of the school.

And each morning, as the Stars and Stripes rise into the air, Joyce's thoughts are transformed thousands of miles away to the battlefields of Iraq, where her 22-year-old son Daniel, a Marine lance corporal, is fighting to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Joyce's motherly concerns for the safety of her son and the other men and women of the U.S. and British armed forces are not lost on the students or faculty of Dougherty. Joyce has been receiving a strong outpouring of support as part of "Operation: MOM," which works to gather, package and ship toiletries and sundries to the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

"I've always felt patriotic. I became active when Desert Storm was going on. I decorated the school with yellow ribbons. And I never thought that it would be my son fighting the next time," says Joyce.

Operation: MOM volunteers had been waiting for approval from the military before sending packages to the soldiers. That came just last week, when the first 87 boxes were shipped to Iraq. The next shipment is scheduled to be sent Friday, and will include a variety of items the soldiers will certainly welcome, including cleaning wipes, eye drops, toothpaste and beef jerky, to name just a few of the carefully screened items.

What Joyce says has really touched her heart has been the support of children, including one first-grade boy who used all of his allowance to buy a variety of items to ship to the soldiers.

And then there's the many letters the kids have been writing to her son Daniel, including a note completely penned by Julia, a first-grader at Dougherty, who says she is praying for him to come home safely.

"What you are doing for our country is very brave," writes Julia, who added a handmade cross necklace for the lance corporal to wear for good luck. Joyce says some of the kids also have decided to write jokes for the soldiers, so they can take their minds -- for a minute -- off the battlefields.

Joyce is quick to point out that other schools in Dublin, including Dublin High School where her oldest son works as a custodian and also raises the flag there each morning, have been supportive of the effort and are contributing supplies and letters.

Operation: MOM chapters are beginning to spring up in the area. Besides a Tri-Valley group that Joyce is part of, there's also one in Antioch, Castro Valley and one expected to get organized in Tracy.

You can find out more information by logging on to www.operationmom.org or by contacting Joyce at 925-443-9572

This editorial is no longer available on the Contra Costa Forum website due to the age of the document
ANTIOCH PRESS

Antioch Press
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OPERATION MOM STEPS UP TROOP EFFORT

By Lou Davis

Operation Mom, a military family support group with deep roots in Antioch, is continuing to reach out in East County and in cities across the nation to support our troops, especially those assigned to battlefields in Operation: Iraqi Freedom.

It all began shortly after 9-11 when Gloria Godchaux of Antioch put together plans to stand fully behind members of the military. She was moved by the fact that her son, Kevin, a 2000 graduate of Antioch High School had chosen to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

She was quickly joined by Dotty Selmeczki of Castro Valley, and together they have succeeded in garnering support from hundreds of parents throughout the country and, according to Godchaux, "The numbers are growing daily".

"Our support will demonstrate to our men and women in uniform that those of us at home care about them and stand behind them 100 percent," Godchaux said. "I realized there must be other parents with men and women in uniform who had the same fears and concerns about the unknown that I had, and would want to do something about it."

"I felt it was very important to work within a group which shows our troops that we continue to care for them, especially now when they are deployed in places where they face imminent dangers on a daily basis," Selmecski said. "Now, I feel so much better, that we have something in motion, and that we're meeting with others who also feel this is the right thing to do. Now I'm in it for the long haul".

Both mothers were asked for comments about live TV coverage of the ongoing conflict. "I think it's a good thing," said Selmecski, quickly adding, "however, it can become an obsession, and that's not good, because there is a tendency to overlook our own personal needs. We have to find time to buddy up with others and make positive plans for dealing with ourselves now, and for planning our future. We also need very much to pray, and encourage others to do likewise."

Godchaux felt likewise. "I think it very important for Americans to be aware," she said. "However, watching too much can be mentally arid emotionally draining. We've got to turn off the TV long enough to dedicate time to doing positive things that help our, troops, and to take care of ourselves."

Godchaux's son is an infantry communications specialist. When she spoke with him recently, his unit was preparing to relocate from a base in Hawaii, but he could not disclose his destination. Selmecski's son, who is part of a Marine Corps reconnaissance organization is already stationed in the Gulf, and like others in that part of the world, is not able to speak with relatives as often as they'd like. Operation Mom is very active in other East County cities, and also in San Jose, -San Francisco, San Mateo, Auburn, and most of the Tri - Valley area.

Because of their Internet site, www.operationmom.org. the group is growing by leaps and bounds.
"Operation Mom is totally non-political," Godchaux said. "We want everyone to know that this group's heart and soul is to support our troops and their families who are not anxious to send their kids to war, but people who will defend their children's choice to honor their oath."

On Sunday April 27, "A Little Touch of Home" drop-off event is being held to assemble packages to be sent overseas. You can call 778-7453 for more information. On May 18 at 10:45 a.m. Armed Forces Day Church Services will be held at the local Cornerstone Christian Center.

Information about Operation Mom can be obtained by calling Gloria Godchaux at 756-5644.


This editorial is no longer available on the Antioch Press website due to the age of the document
ALAMY 07-31-2004

Antioch Press
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Operation Mom member Karen Nixon (cq)(center), of Antioch, works with inmates and V.V.G.S.Q. members (Vietnam Veterans Group of San Quentin) Kevin Hagan (cq)(left) and Dwayne Butler (cq) pack sundries to be sent to military personel in the Middle East at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif.

On Saturday, July 31, 2004. V.V.G.S.Q. members worked with Operation Mom and 82nd Airborne Association members along with other volunteers to pack and send the care packages. Items included shaving razors, chapstick, tissue, granola bars, peanuts and more. (Dean Coppola/Contra Costa Times)
ALAMEDA SUN 11-18-2010

Alameda Sun
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11-18-2010

Alameda County Veterans Affairs Commission hosted a Veterans Day Ceremony at Alameda Veterans Memorial Park on Bay Farm Island.

Those in attendance bowed their heads in prayer, when — just as tradition dictates — the ceremony commenced promptly at 11 a.m., the same moment in 1918 that the armistice ending World War I took effect: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

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This years' keynote speaker, Denise Darnell Langowski, spoke of her experiences as a mother of an American soldier. Her son, 21-year-old Ryan Langowski, is currently serving with the United States Army in Germany.

Ryan served two tours of duty in Iraq. Denise, a 1981 graduate of Encinal High School, was born at Letterman Army Hospital at the Presidio of San Francisco. Her father served as a Marine and was stationed at the Naval Air Station here in Alameda.

She and her daughter, Samantha, work as volunteers with
Operation MOMS — a support group for families with sons and daughters serving in the military.

ALAMEDA SUN 04-13-2007

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Alameda’s Operation Mom Launches
Written by Eric J. Kos Published: Friday, 13 April 2007

Readers recently found a column on this page by local resident Renee Kellogg. Kellogg’s son is a member of the U.S. armed forces and the inspiration for Kellogg’s column about being the mother of a soldier, an instrument of war and defense. The column....

Readers recently found a column on this page by local resident Renee Kellogg. Kellogg’s son is a member of the U.S. armed forces and the inspiration for Kellogg’s column about being the mother of a soldier, an instrument of war and defense. The column, from the Sun’s standpoint, was intended to provide a perspective on the war that we don’t often hear about. Here in Alameda we have the uncommon privilege of speaking out against our warmongering regime without fear of retribution (unless you’re a West End artist), but seriously, in our town, it’s more common to be a peacenik than a war supporter for whatever reason. Mothers whose sons are on the front lines are examples of a demographic that really don’t want us to lose the Iraq war.

Kellogg did not take a stance on the war in her column, but she took a stand for our troops who sorely need the support of us here at home. While her column didn’t spark a partisan debate, it did spark a grassroots, homegrown fund-raiser to support the troops through an organization called Operation Mom. Operation Mom started back in World War II and provides a forum and a support group for families of people in the military. Many local communities have gotten involved in the effort. Today, the group maintains an address in Castro Valley.

Shortly after her column appeared, Kellogg received a flurry of calls from local groups asking how they could get involved and support Operation Mom. Kellogg welcomed each offer and took it upon herself to raise awareness about this program and start raising funds and collecting supply donations from all over town. Many local organizations jumped at the chance to help.

Donations can be made to Operation Mom at the Alameda Chamber of Commerce office, the Alameda Towne Centre, Bank of Alameda on Park Street and on Otis Drive, Linguini’s Restaurant, McGee’s Bar & Grill, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Razor’s Edge Barber Shop, Alameda Business Machines and RK Promotional Advertising. If you make a cash donation at RK Promotional Advertising you can get a free “Alameda Supports the Troops” T-shirt.

Please do what you can to give those kids out there in Iraq “A Little Touch of Home,” and make a donation at one of the locations. To find out more, visit www.

operationmom.org.

It does me proud that the Alameda Sun helped launch such a selfless community effort. Alameda wouldn’t be such a safe and wonderful place to live if our troops weren’t out there risking their lives for us each and every day.

For more information on the local effort, contact Renee Kellogg directly at 865-6375.

Contact Eric J. Kos at ekos@alamedasun

This editorial is no longer available on the Alameda Sun website due to the age of the document
AUBURN JOURNAL 11-10-2011

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Thursday Nov 10 2011

Hire women veterans


This Veterans Day Parade honors women in the military. The local Soroptimist International of the American River club is proud to offer its support to this recognition of females in the armed forces, both present and past. Soroptimists work to help women and girls locally and internationally, as well, through a wide variety of awards and projects.

Since we chartered our club, we have participated in Operation Mom and collected items for the deployed female troops that received the “care packages.” Soon, many of them will be returning home as the war in Iraq draws to a close. Women veterans have the highest unemployment of all returning military groups. Let’s show these brave women that our support for women in the military goes beyond parades and puts them back into the workforce when they return.

Pat Ferguson, Meadow Vista

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AUBURN JOURNAL 10-17-2011

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Monday Oct 17 2011

Operation: MOM gearing up for holiday packing

Biggest Placer County Christmas shipment expected this year, group leader says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer

An Auburn-based organization is hoping to bring a piece of home to soldiers overseas. The Placer County chapter of Operation: MOM is holding its annual Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day fundraiser Saturday. The organization is asking those who attend to make monetary donations or donate items to be shipped to deployed soldiers in Christmas “A Little Touch of Home” care packages.

This year Operation: MOM has even more need than in the past, said Pat Ryan, Operation: MOM Placer County group leader. “This is an important event because it’s our big push for Christmas, for money and product, to be able to send these packages to the troops,” Ryan said. “And this event makes it possible to ship to every name that is on our list, and right now we have 388 names. This is going to be the biggest Christmas ship that we have ever done out of Placer County.”

Ryan said the packages go to Placer County residents and beyond, because soldiers spread the word throughout their units and the organization doesn’t turn down anyone who requests a package. The organization sends packages to deployed soldiers every month of the year. Auburn resident Lori Bergenstock’s son, Tim, is coming home from his deployment in Afghanistan this week. Bergenstock said her son has told her how much the packages mean to the troops. “Tim wasn’t there at Christmas, but I know he said every package he got was just such a blessing to him,” Bergenstock said. “I know he got packages from Operation: MOM and we also had family friends that Tim had never even met before that sent him boxes. We are their family, they expect it from us, but getting things from the community and knowing people really care about what they are doing makes a huge difference while they are over there.”

Bergenstock said the event is a neat way to meet some of the families of other soldiers. Auburn resident Jack Poulsen served in the Navy during the Korean War and also helps with Operation: MOM. “We got started on this thing because our grandson was in Iraq three times on three combat tours, and the stuff they needed, especially at this time of year, is just to let people there know the people from home are backing them,” Poulsen said. “All the goodies help out because we have been sending stuff and he was sharing with his unit, and that made a heck of a difference, just the thought that people are thinking of them, even though they are half a world away.” Ryan said she is excited for the event. “I think for the event for me, the thing I look forward to most is just the community coming together in support of a project like this and supporting our troops and our military,” she said.

Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com

Operation: MOM Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday Where: Grocery Outlet, 414 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn Highlights: Sock wrapping, ROTC color guard, write a note to a soldier, hamburgers and hotdogs, pie throwing contest and more Information: Call Pat Ryan at (530) 908-0751or e-mail pcoperationmom@gmail.com

What are some items soldiers need in their care packages? • Beef or turkey jerky • Protein or energy bars • Top Ramen soup • Chewing gum • Non-chocolate candy • Dried fruit in sealed bags • Disposable razors • Q-tips • Playing cards • Sunscreen • Lip balm • Dental floss • Black or white socks • Paperback books, CDs, DVDs • Phone calling cards


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AUBURN JOURNAL 07-15-2011

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Work scarce for local veterans

Readjustment to civilian life was difficult, former Air Force soldier says

By Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer



Michael Kirby/Auburn Journal

Sacramento resident Justin Johnson fills out an application for a part-time position with the Salvation Army at the Forgotten Soldier Program room on Lincoln Way Friday.

Johnson served in the Army for eight years and said veterans need more consideration when it comes to jobs because their adjustment back to civilian life is challenging enough.
Local veterans and those who support them say more than just the tough economy is making it difficult for former soldiers to find work.

Readjusting to civilian life is also a big part of the job search process, two local veterans said.

“It’s much harder for them to find work because they are coming back from an environment that is task-and-accomplishment,” said Donna Arz, founder and executive director of the Forgotten Soldier Program in Auburn.
“Their whole day is laid out. They have to come back here and readjust. It’s confusion when they come back, how to do it, how to fit in their environment and building trust in their environment.”

Pat Ryan, group leader for the Placer County chapter of Operation: MOM, said other obstacles often get in the way of veterans trying to start over.

“Our young people are coming home with not only physical but mental issues, and a lot of times they have to be able to deal with those in order to place themselves back into civilian life or into school,” Ryan said. “And sometimes because of those ailments, they are unable to place themselves.”

According to Chaplain Terry Morgan, of Gold Country Chaplaincy, Placer County statistics show there are 631 known homeless people in Placer County, and 10 percent of them are veterans.

Morgan said statewide 13.3 percent of those who have become veterans since 9/11 are unemployed.

Auburn resident David Van Tuyl, 25, is currently working in Auburn, but is searching for another job. Tuyl served in the Air Force for seven years and entered the military when he was 17. He returned to Auburn about a year ago.

“I needed a quick fix kind of job, and I went down to a couple restaurants and Old Town Pizza just happened to be hiring,” Tuyl said. “And I kind of meant to only work there a couple months and then ditch the job and move onto something else that would be obviously higher paying. But then I ended up really enjoying it. Problem is I really enjoy it but it doesn’t pay the bills.”

Tuyl worked in information technology support in the Air Force and said each assignment he was sent on was different. However, seven years of experience doesn’t seem to matter.

“I think that a lot of (veterans) when we are coming back, we are different than other people who have been looking for jobs, who went straight into college after high school rather than the military, or have their degrees or something like that,” Tuyl said. “I don’t have a fancy degree, but I have got the experience. I jump right into work and get hands-on experience. So I kind of feel like I have more experience than somebody who went to college and has a degree, but yet this measly piece of paper that says somebody went to college means more than the experience that we military people went through.”

Getting back to life after the military presents issues in itself, Tuyl said.

“I have had an extremely hard time just trying to learn how to be a civilian,” he said. “It’s just nothing like being in the military. That is all I have ever known. I was in when I was 17. That was it for me.”

Tuyl said the agency that is supposed to help veterans adjust and live life, wasn’t helpful when he was looking for work.

“The actual (Department of Veterans Affairs) is a mess,” he said. “They are just disorganized, they are not together, they are just a government agency doing what they do. Honestly, trying to get answers from them is just impossible.”

Sacramento resident Justin Johnson, 35, who uses services provided by the Forgotten Soldier Program, said he served in the Army for a little over eight years, in both reserve and active duty. He left the military in 2008 and is looking for work.

Johnson said getting back to civilian life was a huge adjustment for him, and he wasn’t in a place to be able to find a job.

“For me, because of the divorce I went through and the crazy things life has thrown at me … with the PTSD, I’m always scared I’m going to overreact,” Johnson said. “It’s been a struggle. I’m at a point now where I can finally relax. I don’t care what anyone says, you go to a conflict zone and you are not the same when you leave. And I was (in Baghdad) 17 months.”

While trying to readjust, Johnson is also trying to strengthen his relationships with his three children after the death of their mother.

Johnson said while he could trust everyone he served with, he is having trouble doing that here.

“A lot of people don’t have the integrity people display in the military, so I have a problem with that, working with people I don’t trust.”

Johnson said he has thought of starting his own business, or even getting back into the military.

Sometimes the work soldiers do doesn’t translate to civilian life, which causes another problem in finding work, Johnson said.

“My (military occupation specialty) was a tanker,” he said. “I was on a tank, and where can I do that here? For the guys on the frontline, they are not marketable when they come out.”

Employers should take more chances on veterans because they pick up work skills quickly, Johnson said.

“So, if you teach them how to do it, they will be your best asset,” he said.

Morgan said with a lot of soldiers returning from Afghanistan, the problem of unemployed veterans isn’t going to go away, and the community needs to try to help.

“I don’t think it’s a problem that is going to be fixed any time soon,” he said. “I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. I think just the fact that they have served us, now it’s our turn to turn around and serve them.”

Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com

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AUBURN JOURNAL 07-06-2011

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Jack Paulsen, a volunteer with the Placer County chapter of Operation: MOM, adds some candy to one of the group’s “A Little Touch of Home” care packages at one of the group’s recent packing meetings. The packages are sent to military troops serving overseas.
AUBURN JOURNAL 04-27-2011

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A Placer County group that works to support deployed soldiers and their families is moving to Auburn. The Placer County chapter of Operation: MOM holds packing nights for their “A Little Touch of Home” care packages every third Tuesday of the month. The meeting also acts as a support group for those who have military loved ones deployed in any conflict around the world. Group Leader Pat Ryan said the organization is making 2349 Rickenbacker Way in Auburn its official home on Sunday, after using the Colfax Veterans Memorial Hall for many years. “The reason why is we are a Placer County unit, and this is our eighth year, and more people look at us as a Colfax unit,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the group is hoping to reach more people in cities like Roseville and Rocklin. “There are a lot of people who are further down (in the county) who don’t want to drive clear up to Colfax, but they will come to Auburn,” she said. The move was made possible after Auburn businessman Tom Dwelle donated the top of his hangar rent-free to the group, Ryan said. “I’m really excited,” Ryan said. “I think it’s going to be easier for us to be more organized here.” At 6 p.m. on May 17 the group is hosting an open house, packing night and support group meeting. “Hopefully other people will come and just see what we are about,” Ryan said of the open house.

Meadow Vista resident Jean DiMare is a volunteer with the group and has a nephew currently serving in south Afghanistan. DiMare said the “A Little Touch of Home” packages are very important for the troops. “I think they need to know not only does their family support them, but America supports them, (too),” she said. “I do a lot of praying, that’s for sure, and I just hope that what they are doing is going to make the world a better place and hopefully being here will help them facilitate that.” DiMare said the group gets letters from the troops about the packages. “They thank us immensely for thinking of them, supporting them, for giving them a little bit of home when they are out in the field,” she said. Auburn resident Lori Bergenstock has a son, Tim Bergenstock, serving in Afghanistan. Bergenstock said the support of those involved in the group was a big reason she and her husband got involved. Bergenstock said through Operation: MOM her family met another family whose son’s unit in Afghanistan was being relieved by her son’s unit, and that meant a lot to her family.

Bergenstock said those who attend the group’s meetings have loved ones in all stages of deployment. “You kind of get all kinds of perspectives, which from a parent’s viewpoint is awesome,” she said. “I think one of the things about the group is just the raising awareness (about what’s going on in the conflicts overseas).” Bergenstock said the group is unique in that even those who are no longer in the military are still welcome to attend and help out and all five branches of the military are represented. “So that is neat, too,” she said. “You are up there packing, and you are next to an Army mom and you are next to a Navy mom.”

The group is always looking for donations for their care packages and items can include things like beef jerky, protein bars, ground coffee, disposable razors, shower gel, dental floss, playing cards, black and white socks, paperback books, sunscreen, lip balms and more. Year-round drop off locations in Auburn include Dawn’s Hallmark on Lincoln Way, Frank Lewis Insurance on Linden Avenue, Gold Country Realty on Lincoln Way and the UPS Store on Bell Road. Ryan said she hopes the move to Auburn makes the group more of a central part of Placer County. “I think by being in Auburn we are going to be able to reach out to other communities in Placer County and let them feel like they are a part of our group,” she said.


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AUBURN JOURNAL 02-08-2011

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Operation: MOM is looking for a few good donations to help supply packages sent to troops serving overseas. The nonprofit group is approaching a Tuesday, Feb. 15 packing night and their shelves are lacking supplies for the estimated 100 boxes the volunteers pack every month. Typical supplies include basic toiletries and dried food items like beef jerky. Each box usually includes about $25 worth of treats from Auburn and postage is about $10.95 per package with postal costs increasing this year.

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AUBURN JOURNAL 12-14-2010

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Many people are buying gifts this holiday season, and looking for small and big ways to give back to the community and help others. This year, focus on the Auburn area, whenever you can.

• Buy your tree locally. The Placer High School band boosters have a tree lot in front of the school parking lot. All money raised goes toward Placer’s award-winning school band. Local tree lots, such as Pine Valley Ranch and Poppy Lane Tree Farm, preserve open space, help keep our air fresh and keep money local, feeding back into the local economy.

• Toss some change or a few bills into one of the Auburn Salvation Army red kettles. Those manning the kettles are volunteers. There are a record number of needy families and individuals being served in Auburn this year. This is the Salvation Army’s largest local fundraiser.

• Volunteer to ring the bells and man a red kettle. You can bring your kids, animals and music. Contact Sharon Ferrante at 530-889-3990 ext. 22. They will be ringing bells up to Dec. 24.

• Shop locally. Spend a few hours seeing what the stores in your hometown have to offer. When you consider the time, effort and gas costs it takes to go down the hill, you can save money by shopping in Auburn. Some local sales tax revenues also stay within the community and helps keep our infrastructure strong.

• Go to the farmers market across from the courthouse Saturday mornings and buy locally grown produce. Machado Orchards, Ikeda’s and other fruit stands sell delicious fruit grown in our own backyard. Also, Placer County is known for its abundance of mandarins. Learn more about this citrus wonder and where you can buy it and other produce offered in the foothills at placergrown.org.

• Pop open a bottle of a foothill wine. There are several Auburn area wineries that offer the wine enthusiast or the curious taster a great variety of vintages to choose from. Find out more about them and a good time to visit at auburnwinerytrail.com.

• Babysit a cat or kitten for the holidays. The Placer SPCA is overrun with cats and kittens. Chief Executive Officer Leilani Vierra sent out an appeal this week asking those with nonstressful homes to “cat sit.” Her nonprofit shelter in Roseville is at more than 100 percent capacity. To become a foster volunteer with the Placer SPCA, call (916) 782-7722 or (530) 885-7387, ext. 114, or e-mail animalcare@ placerspca.org.

• Buy your See’s Candies from the local Kiwanis Club at the Raley’s shopping center on Lincoln Way. The Auburn Kiwanis Club uses the money to help homeless and hungry people, supports Operation: Mom, which sends care packages to troops overseas, funds youth scholarships and much more.

Volunteer for Operation: Mom or send them a check. Pat Ryan is the new Auburn area group leader. She recently took over from Dee Rein, who did an outstanding job for several years. The volunteer group collects and sends care packages with personalized notes and messages that give a touch of home to servicemen and women serving our country overseas. Contact Operation: Mom, Placer County. At P.O. Box 8002, Auburn, CA 95604-0515; phone 530-263-0503; website: www.operationmom.org

• Spend some time outdoors with your family. There are lots of free things to do in Auburn such as walk through the park. Both Recreation and Regional parks now have paved pathways suitable for strollers or wheelchairs. Take the kids to the new playground in Recreation Park. And for the more adventurous, walk Clementine Trail to see the majestic Lake Clementine dam waterfall, the Auburn-area’s mini version of Niagara, which is 15 minutes from town just across the confluence bridge. Or how about walking Stagecoach trail, which is wide and suitable for those in fairly decent shape of all ages?

• Want to help a less fortunate child? The Auburn Police Department and California Highway Patrol are both collecting new toys for kids. The Auburn Police headquarters at 1215 Lincoln Way has a bin (see page A5 in today’s edition.) And the Auburn Area Highway Patrol is collecting toys for its ChiPs for Kids Toy Drive through Dec. 17. There are bins at various sites around town and the CHP office is just off Interstate 80 at the Newcastle exit.

• There are plenty of small and large ways to celebrate the holidays by giving to others, helping the less fortunate and supporting businesses and nonprofits in our community. The holiday period is the season of giving. As the local newspaper, we encourage to give, shop and play locally. Happy holidays.

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AUBURN JOURNAL 11-24-2010

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Operation:Mom wants to give a BIG thank you to the community for a fantastic packing night for our men and women protecting us overseas. Operation:Mom packs 100 boxes each month for our troops from Placer County and beyond. Each box had a note asking them to share with their fellow service person and send a name and address if any others wish to receive their own box.

It takes a village to accomplish this as a nonprofit organization. We pay $10.70 for each package loaded with goodies from beef jerky to crossword puzzle books. There is usually over $25 of product all donated from our community and businesses. This month we packed 197 boxes addressed to individuals from Placer County –– our first priority. We then packed 16 unit boxes, much larger for a company from Louisiana in Afghanistan that lost everything except the clothes on their backs from a bombing of supply trucks.

Finally, we packed an additional four unit boxes for the Red Cross in Iraq. All this happened because of the generosity of our community and many volunteers on Nov. 16 at Colfax Veterans Memorial Hall. A special thank you to cub scouts and boy scouts of Colfax, Lions Club of Meadow Vista, Shirley Paris and her E.V. Cain students, John Stephens of Grocery Outlet, and the many volunteers that work 24/7 from Operation:Mom with Dee Rein at the helm. Also, the Auburn Kiwanis Club and Lincoln Kiwanis Club and the Karel Staple Studebaker Club of Sacramento. I am sure I missed a few and thank you as well. This is an ongoing project and we need your support.

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AUBURN JOURNAL 10-19-2010

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An upcoming Auburn fundraiser and donation day could help brighten deployed soldiers’ holidays this year. Operation: MOM is a national organization that acts as a support group to those in the military and their families. The group also sends care packages to deployed soldiers. The organization’s Placer County chapter is hosting a Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day fundraiser and donation day from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday in the Auburn Grocery Outlet parking lot. Residents can bring or buy non-perishable food items to include in the 200 boxes the group plans to pack and ship to troops on Nov. 16. These are the last boxes to be sent out this year, according to Dee Rein, group leader for the Placer County chapter.

The event is a collaborative effort among Operation: MOM, the Auburn Kiwanis Club and E.V. Cain Charter Middle School. Rein said the care packages help lift the spirits of deployed soldiers, especially during this time of the year. “The holidays are the hardest time for our troops to be away from home,” Rein said. “The morale is very low, and they don’t feel that the John Q. Public cares about them. So, when they get a care package from an organization such as ours, it refuels their morale and lets them know that people do care about them.” Rein said last year’s event was very successful, and the group is hoping this fundraiser will help rebuild its supplies. “We did one last year and it was quite successful in helping us fill the care packages,” she said. “Quite truthfully, we pack every month, so what happens every month is we look around the storeroom and there is nothing left on the shelves. It’s been pretty hard in the last two years in trying to keep up on sending our packages. Every month we run out, and every month we have to run around and ask the community to donate.” Rein said the best things to donate are white and black socks, toiletries and non-perishables that won’t melt in the boxes. Examples of foods that can be donated are packages of nuts and dried fruits, beef or turkey jerky, protein bars, microwave popcorn, canned chicken or tuna and more.

Other features of the event include a presentation of colors by Whitney High School ROTC, speeches by Mayor Bridget Powers and Councilman Mike Holmes, a strolling magician named Anton, an In Sync Dance Studio performance and a robotics team demonstration. Those who attend can also buy hot dogs and drinks, and proceeds will go toward offsetting Operation: MOM’s postage costs, Rein said. There is no other cost to attend the event, according to Rein. Auburn resident Jean Poulsen, who has been volunteering with Operation: MOM for six years, said the event is important because it could help soldiers feel more at home during the holidays. “It was a success last year, I sure hope it’s a success this year,” Poulsen said. “I hope that we receive enough supplies to fill all of the boxes we need to send out – besides of course (getting out) the message to the public that we need their support.” Colfax resident Carole Park, who has been volunteering with the organization for seven years, said soldiers probably appreciate knowing someone back home cares about them just as much as the items they receive in the packages. “I think it’s important to let our troops know that we care, and this is our way of doing it,” Park said.

“We send them a package every month, and as important as the goodies are the sentiments being sent and that (the troops) know there are people at home thinking about them.” Park said she thinks this kind of event is perfect for the local community. “I guess (I enjoy) the spirit (of the community the most),” she said. “People really want to help. If you show them a way, something that they can accomplish, they’re more than willing to help.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com

Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day What: An effort to raise funds and gather donations for Operation: MOM care packages When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday Where: Grocery Outlet Parking lot, 414 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn For information: Call Dee Rein (530) 263-0503 Website: operationmom.org

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AUBURN JOURNAL 09-02-2010

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A local Placer County organization is looking for donations for deployed U.S. troops. Operation: MOM is a non-profit support group for military families. The local chapter of this nation-wide organization sends 100 care packages to soldiers every month. According to Bonnie Jones, a member of the group, there are several items the group currently needs. “Beef jerky, gum, hard wrapped candy, jelly belly packages, powdered Gatorade and Crystal (to make the water taste better), small packages of nuts and dried fruit, pop top cans of fruit and tuna, lip balm, small packages of wipes and small foot powders are in great demand,” Jones said.

Auburn drop-off sites include Dawn’s Hallmark on Lincoln Way, the UPS Store on Bell Road and Sierra Doctors on Grass Valley Highway, according to Jones. Jones said the group appreciates community involvement in its cause. “Thank you to all of you that do help, and thank you to all of you that will be helping,” she said. “We are all volunteers, and all donations go to the troops.”

For more information on the organization contact Dee Rein at (530) 320-4954. Donations can be sent to Operation: MOM, P.O. Box 515, Auburn, CA 95604. ~Staff report

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AUBURN JOURNAL 12-24-2009

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Courtney Guild of Roseville hung her son Philip’s stocking on her fireplace last night. But Philip won’t be digging through it to get his mandarin orange, Pez dispenser and socks this morning – this Christmas he’s in Afghanistan. While several Placer County servicemen and women will be at home today, many more will be home for Christmas only in their dreams. A care package, e-mails and phone calls may be the only contact some military families have with their loved ones stationed overseas this holiday. Guild’s youngest son, Philip Guild, 22, is a mortarman with the Marines serving on the frontline of the war in Afghanistan. “I did get a phone call at 1 a.m. the other night,” Guild said. “He said he is OK.

We talked of our past Thanksgivings and Christmases and shared about the best times. We told each other about how much we love each other and then we prayed.” Her son has no regular e-mail access and only occasionally gets to use a satellite phone to call home, so Guild looks forward to any little bit of correspondence. Philip, a 2006 Rocklin High School grad, isn’t expected home until May. Guild said it hurts not to have Philip around this time of year. “At times I cry, but as much as it hurts not to have him, I feel so blessed that he would make the sacrifice to help others and protect our nation so we can live like we do now,” she said. ”The only way to get through this is knowing my son is in God’s hands.

Fortunately, His hands are very big, and can reach very far.” The Guilds won’t be the only military family separated today. This will be the first Christmas apart for Doug Watson of Auburn and his son, DJ Watson, who is stationed with the Army at Camp Liberty in Iraq. “I correspond with him regularly by e-mail. He has Skype on his laptop, so he calls when he can,” his father said. Watson remembers when DJ was a teen and wanted to get a MySpace account — he never imagined it would be the primary mode of communication when his son went to war. “It eases the stress as a parent. I can see he’s online and jump on MySpace and see what he’s doing,” he said. “I don’t have to hear from him to know he’s OK. Without the communication, we’d go crazy.” DJ chose to live with his dad after his parents split. His twin brother and sister live in Southern California, so Watson will have an empty house this Christmas. “It’s tough, especially around the holidays,” Watson said. “Not having any kids around is hard.” Watson is waiting for January when DJ will come home for two weeks. DJ has but one request. “He told me, ‘Just have the eggnog,’” he said.

A surprise homecoming Jennie Opsahl, 25, of Auburn surprised her family by coming home this Christmas. Jennie serves in the Peace Corps as an English teacher in Kazakhstan. With a grandfather that passed away this year, her father struggling with MS and her brother entering the priesthood, Jennie’s siblings wanted her to come home for what may be the last Christmas together for a long time. Although it is discouraged to leave your teaching post for a holiday break, Jennie was able to get time off to come home — unbeknownst to her parents. When the Opsahl clan got together for an evening of cookie baking and watching Christmas movies Saturday, Jennie was waiting to reveal her holiday surprise. “We were just sitting in the family room, looking at a Christmas card, when someone said, ‘I want to see that.’ It was this voice that sounded familiar,” said her mom, Julie Opsahl. “I look back and there’s this girl with a Santa cap on. I was in shock. I was literally in shock. I was just screaming. I kept thinking, is this real? How can you be here? It felt like a dream.” Both Julie and her daughter said spending Christmas apart last year was hard. But it just made being together this year extra special. “They don’t celebrate Christmas in Kazakhstan, so I didn’t get a Christmas last year, really,” Jennie Opsahl said. “It’s special because this may be the last Christmas possible for a long, long time.

It’s just really special to be with my family.” ‘An amazing gift’ Between playing games, watching football and checking out the movie “Avatar,” Mark Soto has been cherishing time with his sons who are home from their military bases in Southern California. “Whenever I can have them here, it’s an amazing gift,” said Soto, of Granite Bay. “We’ve been hanging out and enjoying our time,” he said. “You never know when they’ll get redeployed with this surge happening.” Joshua Soto, 23, who’s in the Marines, and Benjamin Soto, 21, who’s in the Army, have each had a tour of duty in Iraq. “I haven’t been (home) in a year, and it’s nice to get a break,” Joshua Soto said. “Everything moves 110 percent down there, so it’s good to wind down with friends and family.” Benjamin Soto also said it’s nice to get a break from non-stop training for war to come home for family, friends and good food — including his mom’s spaghetti.

Chloe Sluis feels lucky to have both her sons home for Christmas, too. Although Gabe Sluis has been out of the Army for close to two years, her 22-year-old son Josh Sluis is still an Army soldier. Both have served in Iraq. Sluis, who lives in Nevada City and works in Auburn, found out in October that Josh would be coming home. “It’s a mixed bag. I know other families don’t get to have family home, but when it’s your turn to come home … I remember Christmases where I sent packages to Iraq,” she said. “It’s special, you have to spend all the time you can with them.” Sluis said her sons plan on celebrating being home for Christmas in a typically Northern California way. “I think the boys are going snowboarding,” she said. Michelle Miller-Carl can be reached at michellem@goldcountrymedia.com.

If you would like to write a letter or send a care package to men and women in the military, you can do so through Operation:MOM, a local suport group for families with loved ones overseas. Drop off items at Dawn's Hallmark on Lincoln Way next to Raley's, UPS store on Bell Road, Sierra Doctors on Hwy 49 near Hwy 80, Scent Chips on High Street (across from AJ). The letters or cards should not include personal contact info. No phone numbers, no last names, no addresses. The group also meets at 6 p.m. every third Tuesday of the month to assemble Touch of Home care packages at Colfax Veterans Memorial Hall, 22 Sunset Circle in Colfax. The next meeting is Jan. 19. For more information, visit operationmom.org


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AUBURN JOURNAL 10-30-2009

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A big thanks to Grocery Outlet, E.V Cain students and Operation: MOM for helping make sure those who are serving overseas get a holiday “touch of home” this year. Marci Seither, Alta, mother of a U.S. Marine


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AUBURN JOURNAL 10-27-2009

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The community contributed enough cash and supplies to send 200 Operation:MOM care packages to troops overseas during Saturday’s “Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Life” day at Grocery Outlet in Auburn. Veterans read letters from troops stationed overseas who have received the “Touch of Home” packages during Saturday’s event. The Whitney High School ROTC Honor Guard presented the colors. "We feel good about the support we received from the community,"said Operation:MOM leader Dee Rein. Toiletries and snack-food donations are still being accepted for November’s shipment and can be dropped off at the Colfax Record office or Dawns’ Halmark in the Auburn Raley’s shopping center. Visit operationmom.org for more information. ~ Staff report


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AUBURN JOURNAL 10-20-2009

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For the past six years Operation: MOM has packed boxes to send overseas to local men and women serving in the military. During the September meeting as boxes were being filled, weighed and addressed, something unexpected happened. The supplies ran out. “We have totally run out of products,” said Dee Rein, group leader for Placer County Operation: MOM. According to Rein this is the first time in six years they have cancelled a packing meeting. “I know times are hard and I truly appreciate all of the steadfast support over the years,” she said. Rein started the local chapter after her son and daughter-in-law were deployed following the 9/11 attacks. “The holidays will be a difficult time for the troops to be away from family,” Rein said. “Our ‘Touch of Home’ care packages help keep them connected and show the troops that our small town in America does care about them.”

On Saturday, Oct. 24, Operation: MOM is combining efforts with students from E.V. Cain Middle School and the Auburn Kiwanis to encourage others to “Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day.” The event will be held in the Grocery Outlet parking lot, located on the corner of Highway 49 and Elm Street. A lunch will be served with all of the proceeds going to Operation: MOM as well as tables set up for people to write letters of support to the troops and drop off needed supplies. “We are so thankful to John and Nancy Stephens, the co-operators of Grocery Outlet for hosting this event,” said Rein, who also has the support of Auburn Mayor Mike Holmes. For the last several years Holmes had been an active advocate for the group that not only sends the care packages overseas, but offers much needed support to local military families. “I think it is completely inherent to support those serving in our military,” stated Holmes, a Navy veteran. “I remember being stationed in Vietnam. I had friends who sent care packages of small items plus homemade cookies.

The simple gesture helped my morale at the time.” Lynn Whelan’s son Thomas LaBonty is currently stationed in Afghanistan. “I know my son looks forward to getting his box full of things such as deodorant, socks and beef jerky,” she said. “Operation: MOM has also helped me feel like I am not alone. It helps to know that other people understand what I am going through.” Rein registered “Make a Difference in a Military Person’s Day” with the USA Weekend magazine-sponsored “Make a Difference” day, in which people are encouraged to volunteer their time to make a difference in the lives of others. Last year, according the “Make A Difference” Web site, more than 3 million people participated in the national event.

Rein’s goal is to restock the Operation: MOM shelves so they can send out more than 200 packages after their Nov. 17 meeting in time to get them to the troops overseas for the holidays. Operation: MOM often receives thank you letters such as the recent one sent from SSG James Ference that read, “I just wanted to let you guys know how thankful we are for your support.”



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AUBURN JOURNAL 07-19-2009

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Sunday Jul 19 2009

Help out our troops in Iraq

I became involved with Operation Mom when my grandson, Gregory Holt (Placer High School Class of 2006), was deployed to Iraq. When the troops are on patrol, what they eat is what they carry in their pockets. Protein bars, beef jerky, wrapped candies are great. I try to put together 100 toiletry packets for the packages we send each month. I am always in need of deodorant, hand sanitizer, dental floss, bath gel, razors and lip balm. The Dollar Tree in the Bel Air shopping center has many of the items we need. Dawn’s Hallmark by Raley’s and the UPS Store at Bell and 49 are drop-off spots for us in Auburn. Dee Rein (530) 320-4954 is our group leader. We are all volunteers and all donations go to the troops. Operation Mom, P.O. Box 515, Auburn, CA 95604, non-profit 501c3 No. 13-4233326. Thank you to all of you who help and to all of you who will be helping. Bonnie Jones, Auburn

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AUBURN JOURNAL 06-09-2009

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Ashley Baer/Auburn Journal file photo

Volunteer Ted Moore sorts donations into categories such as pastas, soups and canned meals during the Stuff-A-Bus “food-raiser” in November in Auburn.

This weekend a local nonprofit that helps troops overseas will launch a special mission — Operation Stuff the Bus.
Operation: MOM launching Operation Stuff the Bus
Local nonprofit seeking food, toiletry donations for troops overseas

By Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
This weekend a local nonprofit that helps troops overseas will launch a special mission — Operation Stuff the Bus. The Auburn Kiwanis Club is sponsoring a Stuff the Bus event to collect donations for Touch of Home care packages for Operation: MOM. The nonprofit group sends packages of food and toiletries to soldiers stationed overseas. Dee Rein, group leader of Placer County’s Operation: MOM, said with the recent economic downturn, the group has been struggling like other nonprofits to fill its needs. “Everybody is trying to fundraise and make it through the hard times,” Rein said. “Before I would only have to campaign to collect products twice a year. Now, I’m doing it every other month.” Auburn resident David Partak was one of the soldiers who received a care package from the group when he was stationed in Iraq in 2004. He said receiving a package from someone who wasn’t a family member or friend was a “pleasant surprise.” “As we like to say in the military, it is a morale multiplier,” Partak said.

“I remember some of the fun stuff, especially the cards and letters from kids.” This Saturday volunteers will collect food and personal items at the Grocery Outlet parking lot off Highway 49 and Elm Avenue in Auburn. The items needed are granola, cereal and protein bars, beef jerky, personal-size deodorant for men and women and toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes. Rein added that hand-sanitizer is also a needed item. As items are dropped off, Anton the Magical Entertainer will perform magic tricks for kids and adults. There will also be a table set up for people to write a note to a solider. Additionally, Grocery Outlet owner John Stevens has donated hot dogs and drinks for Operation: MOM to sell so they can raise money for postage costs. Rein said the group meets once a month and sends about 75 to 100 $10 care packages to soldiers stationed overseas in various countries including Iraq.

The nonprofit has been in operation since about 2003. Rein said she hopes Auburn-area residents will help support the men and women in the military this Saturday. “Help us keep our care packages going and support our troops,” Rein said. “This is a great way to do it because the whole family can participate. Even buying one item is really helpful.” The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.

What: Stuff the Bus to collect donations for Operation: MOM
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 13
Where: Grocery Outlet parking lot, located on Highway 49 at Elm Avenue in Auburn

Bring: Granola, cereal and protein bars, beef jerky, personal size deodorant for men and women and toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes Entertainment: Anton the Magical Entertainer will appear between 11 a.m. and noon and 2 and 3 p.m.

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http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/operation-mom-launching-operation-stuff-bus
AUBURN JOURNAL 11-14-2008

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Having just returned from a donation pick-up site at Dawns Hallmark, I was once again touched by the generosity and patience that Dawns has shown us over the last few years. They have limited storage space as it is, yet are willing to be a drop-off spot to those who wish to give to our cause. That brought me to thinking about the items I was picking up, which were wonderful, thoughtful and quite abundant. We have been worrying at Operation M.O.M., what with tough times financially. Still, soft black socks, white socks, beef jerky, protein snacks and Avon!

We have plenty of women in the military who will enjoy that. Our next shipment will be Nov. 18 at the VFW in Colfax, with a goal of mailing 300 “Touch of Home Care Packages” to our fine military. Once again, our cupboards are bare. With commitment comes determination, and since our military deserve so much more, they are our motivating force. That and the fact that they never complain. Instead we receive letters praising their good fortune as they open boxes from M.O.M. We share these letters monthly and I challenge you not to cry or gain a little perspective on what life must be like so far from home. We would like to fulfill other wish list items from the troops as well: black gloves to cover their hands as the temperature drops, inexpensive, size medium to large. Also, Oreo cookies and beef jerky.

Our Web site is www.operationmom.org if you would like to read up on our grassroots organization. Most importantly, this is an ongoing thank you to the businesses that have supported us and to the community of friends that take time from their day to think of the military so far away. Mary Paolini Fischer Operation M.O.M. Auburn



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AUBURN JOURNAL 04-08-2008

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Operation: MOM is in crisis mode. Group members are furrowing their brows at the drastic shortage of supplies they are preparing to send to local soldiers stationed overseas. Dee Rein, group leader for Operation: MOM Placer County, said one of the main reasons for the lack of items is the demand has surpassed the supply. When the group originally formed in 2003, it sent about 20 packages a month. Today, the 30 or so volunteers who assemble at monthly packing meetings are producing more than 100 packages. On top of that, last month's shipping bill was $1,700, Rein said. Rein said when she heard not every soldier was receiving mail from home, she wanted to reach out to them. We found when we sent packages to one, there were a lot more in the unit who got nothing from home, Rein said. We took it upon ourselves to not only support our local kids, but we wanted to support their comrades.

So now, when a local soldier receives a package from home, so do all of the soldiers in his unit. Fellow Operation: MOM supporter Carole Park was taking inventory of the group's stock Monday afternoon in the basement of the Colfax Veterans Memorial Hall. She shook almost empty boxes of razors, toothpaste, deodorant and more. Soap bars and bags of coffee are about the only items the group has a surplus of, Park said. The group has a list of donation suggestions on its Web site, www.operationmom.org. Rein said some of the soldiers' favorite items are beef jerky, protein bars, toothbrushes, toothpaste and face wipes. Just about anything anyone wants to donate on that list we appreciate, Rein said. Both Rein and Park said the group doesn't want to politicize their cause.

Rein said she has encountered some people who decline to donate because they don't want to give money to a cause they believe supports the war. When we have our meetings, we check religion, politics and especially our egos at the door, Rein said. When we come in we are focused on what can we do for the troops today ” we're supporting our kids. Park also added that whether or not the U.S. government should be providing these items to troops doesn't matter to the group. We've asked that same question, but if it doesn't, we will, Park said. Even if they did we'd probably still send them things because they need to know we're rooting for them. Rein said she is looking for help from any venue. She said she is grateful to those community members and organizations to have supported the group, and hopes they can continue.

The group recently received some unexpected help from Colfax High School senior Megan Guyan. The 18-year-old decided last year for her senior project to focus on something that would help soldiers. Her mother is in the Army reserves, and she also said there is strong family tradition of supporting the military. I've got a really strong Republican family, Guyan said. We really believe in what this country stands for and I just really believe in what we're fighting for. Throughout the school year, Guyan has held several fundraisers for the group including selling Valentine grams and holding a bake sale. This Saturday a pasta dinner is the culminating fundraising event, she said. To date, Guyan has $400 saved to donate to Operation: MOM. She hopes to be able to donate more than $1,000 after the dinner this weekend.

Putting the dinner together was no easy task, Guyan said. She estimates that she's spent at least 50 hours talking to various businesses and asking for help. It's been a struggle and it's been hard work but I'm really glad I did it, she said. She called multiple businesses to look for donations for the silent auction and raffle. She also worked with other area business to help supply the food. Longhorn Meat Company gave her the meat for spaghetti sauce and Marie Callender's donated six pies. Raffle prizes include two tickets to The Ridge, a night's stay at the Jackson Rancheria Casino, Hotel and Conference Center, two hours of limousine service and more. She said she is excited to see the end of her hard work this weekend. The senior project is a great opportunity to not only serve the community but to serve the country, Guyan said. I wanted to do something to make a difference and actually have an impact.

Rein said the group is immensely appreciative of Guyan's efforts. She said people could also make food or toiletry donations at the dinner. This couldn't have come at a better time because obviously we don't have enough to put in our care packages, Rein said. The pasta dinner to support the troops will start with 6 p.m. cocktails with dinner at 7 p.m. The dinner is held at Sierra Vista Community Center on School Street in Colfax. Tickets are $15 and proceeds benefit Operation: MOM.

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AUBURN JOURNAL 12-26-2005

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My sincere gratitude and thanks goes out to the service clubs, youth groups, churches, individuals, and businesses, that have supported the efforts of Operation:MOM, Placer County throughout the years since our inception in January 2003. We are dedicated to keeping up the spirits and morale of our beloved troops and we are also a support group for those families who are in need of a kindred spirit. Our monthly "Touch of Home" packages for the troops could not have been possible without the steadfast support of our local community, and the newspaper column isn't big enough for me to acknowledge everyone's help, but there are a few people that I would like to give special thanks to:

Colfax Veterans Memorial Hall personnel for allowing us to use their facility for our monthly meetings and for storing our products.

Colfax GKM Corp. for donating the boxes for shipping our Touch of Home packages.

Colfax Drooling Dog BBQ owners Doug & Linda Mason for everything they do for us!

Jennifer Washman and her 4-H group, parents and friends who have helped us with sorting and packaging since the beginning.

Starbucks (Northern Calif. Region) for donating hundreds of pounds of coffee and to the Roseville employees that helped us sort out our inventory.

Auburn 49er Lions Club, for their monetary donations every year.

I am happy to report that we have ended 2005 with a generous supply of food snacks and toiletries that will fulfill our packaging needs for the next several months. Money donations are always appreciated to help offset shipping costs. I wish everyone a joyful holiday season; and for the military families that will not have their beloved family member home for the holidays, please be assured that they are well loved by all of us and we will support them until they all come home! Remember this..... Land of the Free, because of the Brave! Dee Rein, Group Leader, Operation:MOM Auburn.

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The Auburn Kiwanis Club is sponsoring a Stuff the Bus event to collect donations for Touch of Home care packages for Operation: MOM.

The nonprofit group sends packages of food and toiletries to soldiers stationed overseas.

Dee Rein, group leader of Placer County’s Operation: MOM, said with the recent economic downturn, the group has been struggling like other nonprofits to fill its needs.

“Everybody is trying to fundraise and make it through the hard times,” Rein said. “Before I would only have to campaign to collect products twice a year. Now, I’m doing it every other month.”

Auburn resident David Partak was one of the soldiers who received a care package from the group when he was stationed in Iraq in 2004. He said receiving a package from someone who wasn’t a family member or friend was a “pleasant surprise.”

“As we like to say in the military, it is a morale multiplier,” Partak said. “I remember some of the fun stuff, especially the cards and letters from kids.”

This Saturday volunteers will collect food and personal items at the Grocery Outlet parking lot off Highway 49 and Elm Avenue in Auburn.

The items needed are granola, cereal and protein bars, beef jerky, personal-size deodorant for men and women and toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes. Rein added that hand-sanitizer is also a needed item.

As items are dropped off, Anton the Magical Entertainer will perform magic tricks for kids and adults. There will also be a table set up for people to write a note to a solider.

Additionally, Grocery Outlet owner John Stevens has donated hot dogs and drinks for Operation: MOM to sell so they can raise money for postage costs.

Rein said the group meets once a month and sends about 75 to 100 $10 care packages to soldiers stationed overseas in various countries including Iraq. The nonprofit has been in operation since about 2003.

Rein said she hopes Auburn-area residents will help support the men and women in the military this Saturday.

“Help us keep our care packages going and support our troops,” Rein said. “This is a great way to do it because the whole family can participate. Even buying one item is really helpful.”

The Journal’s Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.

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What: Stuff the Bus to collect donations for Operation: MOM
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., June 13
Where: Grocery Outlet parking lot, located on Highway 49 at Elm Avenue in Auburn
Bring: Granola, cereal and protein bars, beef jerky, personal size deodorant for men and women and toothpaste, floss and toothbrushes
Entertainment: Anton the Magical Entertainer will appear between 11 a.m. and noon and 2 and 3 p.m.

This article is no longer available on the Auburn Journal due to age of the material
AUBURN JOURNAL

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More soldiers reap benefits of our
generous community

Operation Mom sends a heartfelt thanks to the Colfax VFW and Ladies Auxiliary recalling the valor and bravery of the selfless firefighters, law enforcement officers and rescue workers of 9/11 whose ultimate sacrifice was their lives.

On Sept. 13, we gathered to honor our fallen heroes of 9/11 and to honor our own local heroes. To our local law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, thank you for protecting us from those who would harm us, finding us when we are lost, aiding us when we are hurt and protecting us from fire and other potentially hazardous conditions.

Operation Mom would also like to thank Gold Run CHP, Colfax City Volunteer Fire Department and Colfax CDF Station 30 for their donations that will help us send packages to our troops currently deployed overseas. Through their kindness, Operation Mom will send another 25 packages called “A Little Touch of Home” this month. To date, we currently mail, on average, 70 packages each month.

Bobbi Park

Operation Mom

This article is no longer available on the Auburn Journal due to age of the material

For additional information on Operation MOM, they can be reached at: www.operationmom.org
PLACER SENTINEL 05-11-2012

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A Touch of Home’s first packing night was April 17 and the cupboards are now bare. The next packing night is May 15, at 6 p.m. on the second floor of the building behind Nella Oil, 2349 Rickenbacker Way, at the Auburn Airport.
A Touch of Home is a local organization supporting deployed men and women overseas with monthly packages. Operation:MOM, which served Placer County for many years, is no longer able to provide a chapter in the Placer County area. A Touch of Home has filled that void. Placer County Council Navy League of US, a nonprofit, is sponsoring A Touch of Home, which ships packages to all branches of the military currently deployed overseas.
Grocery Outlet in Auburn is hosting a product drive for A Touch Of Home on May 19 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nancy and John Stevens of Grocery Outlet have been very supportive in the community and support A Touch Of Home. Suggested items in the store will have a "starburst" notice on the shelf indicating a product that is needed. The cost to ship just one medium-sized flat-rate box is $11.35. Monetary donations to help defray the postage are greatly appreciated. A note is enclosed in each box asking the recipients to share with their unit and to let A Touch of Home know if any of their deployed buddies are not getting mail from home and would like to receive a package.
Tax-exempt donation checks should be made payable to Placer County Council Navy League of US, Touch Of Home, P.O. Box 8173, Auburn, CA 95604.
Products in small individual packages currently needed are instant coffee, instant hot chocolate, tea bags, Crystal Light, dried fruits, beef jerky, tuna in individual servings, puzzle pocket books/magazines, pocket tissue, wet wipes, razors, popcorn, Top Ramen, hard candy, Tampax, Kotex, playing cards, liquid hand sanitizer and all sizes of Ziploc baggies.
If you have a family member or a friend currently deployed who would like to receive A Touch of Home monthly package, email
pcnl.touchofhome@gmail.com, write to P.O. Box 8173, Auburn, CA 95604 or call (530) 888-0784.

This can be seen on their website at:
http://www.auburnjournal.com/article/touch-home-sends-care-packages-troops
PLACER SENTINEL 12-07-2010

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12-07-2010

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PLACER SENTINEL 10-12-2008

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Christmas is coming and Operation MOM is already making plans. Members of the support group for military families were manning a drop-off point Saturday for all those little things that troops are looking forward to. The cupboard was essentially bare after September’s “care” packages were sent out, Operation MOM group leader Dee Rein said Saturday. Donations at drop-offs in Auburn and Rocklin will help the group send out about 150 packages this month and get ready for the larger Christmas shipment of 300 in late November, she said. “I know times are hard and it’s going to be tougher for people to give,” Rein said. “But we have units that have been away from home for two years. We want to make sure the holiday packages get out.” By the end of the day, Rein reported Auburn foot traffic “extremely low” at the drop-off and donations “slim.”

The Rocklin drop-off produced better results but Rein said she’s concerned about filling the group’s commitment for holiday packages. Bonnie Jones of Auburn — whose son, Lance Cpl. Gregory Holt is stationed with the Marines in Iraq — said it’s surprising what the troops need. For her son, it was a coffee pot. “He said that they got the cups ready and the sugar and cream and then it blew a fuse,” she said. On journeys out in the field that sometimes last two or three days, the needs turn to dried fruits and protein bars. “It’s whatever they can stuff into their pockets,” Jones said. “They have no kitchen there.” Even items like sports drink powder are appreciated because they help mask the bad taste of the water, she said.


Operation MOM’s work raising funds and finding food and small items like socks and gloves to send to troops continues with a “Sock-it-to-me” bingo and dessert auction Nov. 8 at the Colfax Memorial Hall. Black or white socks are being requested as well as monetary donations for postage on packages that’s about $10 apiece. The e-mail address for more information is operationmompc@colfaxnet.com. The phone number for Rein is (530) 320-4954. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.

You can see this on their webpage at:
http://www.placerherald.com/article/operation-mom-launches-pre-christmas-mission
PLACER SENTINEL 10-03-2008

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MARIN INDP. JOURNAL

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Marin parents 'scared' but proud
By Jennifer Upshaw, IJ reporter

Military families try to follow news

Yesterday, San Rafael's Mary Laflamme seemed to speak for all Marin parents with children poised to go to war.

"We're scared," said Laflamme, 63, a retired Fireman's Fund employee, whose son, Art, is an Army military intelligence company commander in Kuwait. "I'm actually sleeping well, but sometimes I get a scary thought."

Seated last night at the kitchen table in their home off Las Gallinas Avenue, Mary and her husband, Bob, joined millions of Americans who paused as President George W. Bush addressed the nation.

The difference between the Laflammes and most Americans? Their child is going to war.

After the four-minute address, the vigil before the television continued as the couple watched analysis and commentary on CBS. Conversation was sporadic. One minute they would murmur their reaction to the news, the next the conversation would drop off as they turned their undivided attention to the updates.

"I didn't want it to happen, but now that it's happening " Mary said, her voice trailing off.

The drill was the same hours earlier for many Marin parents with children in the military, who were never far from a television set as the hours slowly ticked away toward Bush's 5 p.m. PST deadline directing Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave the country or face war.

For them, the day was spent coping with the knots in their stomachs.

Susan Cunliffe of Corte Madera was at work, a place she found cathartic in the midst of a war that appeared imminent.

"My job keeps me sane," she said matter-of-factly. "It's a healthy distraction."

The corporate banker has two sons in the Persian Gulf, the oldest a Black Hawk pilot with the 101st Airborne and the other an Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne.

"We're both just really nervous," she said, referring to the vigil she and her husband are keeping around the television set hoping for news that might ease their minds. "We both have jobs, but we have to keep trying to work."

Susie Hudson of Novato, the founder of the Marin chapter of Operation: Mom, a support group for families with loved ones in the military, said she is "scared to death."

"I heard somebody on television today being interviewed and I thought 'How can they be so confident?'" she said of the interviewee, who appeared unruffled despite having a child in a potential war zone.

Her 37-year-old son, a Special Forces green beret captain, is in Afghanistan. But she quickly added she knew that could change in a matter of hours once the war begins.

Mostly, it's Fox or CNN on Hudson's screen these days, but she said she occasionally switches over to reality television programs for a little relief.

Jean Nelson's 20-year-old son is driving fuel tanks in an Army transportation company, and last she heard he was in Kuwait.

That was two weeks ago.

"I can't get myself away from CNN," said the 53-year-old Novato resident, who owns a small business. "I have to go out and I was thinking about taking my headphones with me. I check the news on the hour every hour. It's very surreal I just go about my things, then I read something and I get really nervous."

Greenbrae's Lori Barsocchini, 52, a mother of six with two sons in the military, debated ignoring the deluge of war news when she woke up yesterday morning.

The Bacich Elementary School aide's 24-year-old son is in the Navy, stationed on the amphibious ship USS Bonhomme Richard.

She can only assume he's in the Persian Gulf and likely scared, she said.

"I'm just picking up on his fears and concerns," she said. "This morning, I woke up and said, 'Do I even want to turn it on, do I even want to know what's going on?'"

She counted herself among the few lucky parents who has received word from her son recently. Unlike Cunliffe, who hasn't heard from her youngest in three weeks, she regularly receives e-mail.

"I feel lucky," she said. "To this point, I've gotten e-mails daily and I save every one, but now I don't know. That's what is so disturbing."

Cunliffe said if there is an upside to the threat of war, it comes from the outpouring of support she's receiving.

Aside from the dozens of telephone calls and e-mails of support she's received, fifth- and sixth-graders at St. Patrick's Parochial School in Larkspur, her children's alma mater, are writing letters to her sons, she said.

"There is something incredibly positive coming out of this," she said. "My clients are e-mailing me and calling me, my management is stopping by to offer their support - the positive aspect of this is people are banding together and supporting us with kids over there. It makes me feel so much better knowing all these people are sending prayers, not just for my children but for everyone."

This editorial is no longer available on the Marin Independent website due to the age of the document
THE UNION 01-22-2004

The Union
reviews Operation Mom

edge
edge
01-22-2004

Sean Metroka of Nevada City, a Marine Reserves colonel who served eight months during the Iraq war, describes a slide from his presentation, "Iraq: Through a Soldier's Eyes," sponsored by The Union Wednesday night. A crowd of more than 400 filled the auditorium at the Grass Valley Elks Club an hour before showtime, so a second presentation is planned.

The Union photo/John Hart

The Union will sponsor a second presentation of "Iraq: Through a Soldier's Eyes," by Marine Col. Sean Metroka of Nevada City.

Publisher Jeff Ackerman said Wednesday that the free event, including slides and commentary from Metroka's eight months in Iraq last year, will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge at West Main and School streets.

"So many people were turned away from the first show that we felt obligated to do it again," said Ackerman.

As many as 450 people attended Jan. 14, bringing items to be sent to men and women serving in Iraq. An estimated 400 pounds of items were donated, from paperbacks to beef jerky.

The Placer County chapter of Operation Mom - family and friends of military personnel - has offered to help get the goods to Iraq. For security reasons, the items must be in four-pound boxes, with shipping costs at about $10 a box.

Operation Mom representatives will be at the Jan. 27 presentation, and donations to defray shipping expenses will be accepted then or by mail to Operation Mom, P.O. Box 1262, Alta, CA 95701. Also, the group will be packing boxes Feb. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the VFW building in Colfax. Those wanting to help should call Bobbi Park for more information at 906-4112.

A videotape of the first presentation by Metroka - who was assisted by another area veteran of the Iraq war, Dr. Michael Curtis - was shown Wednesday night on local public-access television (Comcast cable channel 11) and is scheduled for reruns. Those wanting a copy of the hour-long video should contact Ackerman at The Union, 477-4299.

In addition, The Union plans to make Metroka's slides available on
www.theunion.com.



THE UNION

Sonoma West
reviews Operation Mom

edge
"Mom" groups forming to support military personnel

By NATHAN WRIGHT - Staff Writer

As the United States prepares for war, many local organizations are rallying to support both its troops and the people they left behind in the states who are in need.

The American Legion is giving out Blue Star Flags, a program that began in World War II. Families of soldiers are given flags with a blue star, and many hang them in their windows in recognition of their son or daughter.

"If they give us a call, we'll send them a banner," said American Legion member Jim Kubicka. The flags are free, and are available by calling Kubicka at 838-2020 or contacting any other American Legion member.

Members of the Healdsburg community are holding a rally in the Healdsburg Plaza on Thursday, March 20. The group will put up yellow ribbons downtown. It will be an excellent place for families of service men and women to meet.

Organizers are urging community members to bring ribbons, or to purchase them at a discount from Country Daisy Florist.

Dianna Murphy, a Healdsburg educator and a resident of Geyserville, will be at the rally. Murphy's son, Lance Corporal Ryan Alves, USMC, is a Healdsburg High School graduate. She said that Mike Archer, Phillip Miranda, Brian Plum and Kevin Clark, all HHS graduates, are also with her son.

Murphy recently joined Mothers of Military Servicemembers (MOMS), a local community group that meets once a week. "I feel a strong need to help in whatever way I can," she said. "I feel that the MOMS group is going to give me that outlet."

Joanne Abrao, another member of MOMS, found a great emptiness when her son was deployed to the middle east. "I was desperately needing something," she said. "I've never had feelings like this before."

Turning to her community, Joanne found Operation Mom, a Bay Area organization she can identify with. Started by two women with sons in the Marines, Operation Mom is a community of people with loved ones in the military.

With groups in Antioch, Castro Valley, Livermore, San Francisco, San Jose, Novato, Sacramento, and now Windsor, Abrao and Operation Mom is looking for people in Sonoma County in need of support to join its ranks. Although Abrao is from Windsor, she is welcoming all residents in and around Sonoma County who are interested in joining.

"It's main purpose is to be a support group," said Dotti Selmeczki, who co-founded Operation Mom in Antioch. "It's not about politics. None of us want our children over there."

With support being its primary objective, Operation Mom also has other activities. Once every two months, the group sends out "a little touch of home" in the form of care packages they mail directly to their sons and daughters. Each care package contains eight to 10 baggies full of snack food, which is shared around once it reaches the Middle East. The organization also includes an educational component, striving to teach the returning service men and women what benefits are available to members of the armed forces.

Operation Mom is being aided by the California Veterans Advocacy Groups, who is helping them attain non-profit status. In return for its help, Operation Mom has agreed to donate all food they are unable to send to the middle east to homeless veterans.

For those interested in joining, information can be obtained online at www.operationmom.org, or by calling 925-706-1736. There is no cost to join and care packages are sent directly to specific loved ones via the United States Post Office.