OGDEN -- Several hundred soldiers serving in Afghanistan will have a brighter holiday season, thanks to local donors in the Top of Utah.
Employees at Myers Mortuary in conjunction with Operation Adopt a Ghost spent the better part of Tuesday morning filling stockings full of candy, toiletries, books, crossword puzzles, hand warmers, nuts, socks, jerky, DVDs and other items to ship overseas in time for Christmas.
"The generosity of this community is absolutely amazing," said Myers Mortuary community relations director Katie King-Brockman. "We took donations from all of our four Myers Mortuary locations as well as local businesses such as Autoliv, Utah Correctional Center, St. James Parish, Layton Christian Academy and the Internal Revenue Service. Several people in the community also took stockings, filled them up and brought them back to us."
One donor even sent a goodie bag to the "war dogs" serving in the Middle East, King-Brockman said.
Sean Myers, president and CEO of Myers Mortuary, said his employees have been involved in sending packages to U.S. soldiers for the past two years.
"We were looking for a community service project targeted to our veterans, and at the time we were in the middle of two wars," Myers said. "We felt they were under-recognized at the time, so we started sending them packages."
The mortuary sends several packages each year, including one at Valentine's Day and another in July.
"We call it Christmas in July," Myers said. "One year, one of the units who received the packages sent us a flag that flew over their commanding post along with a picture and a thank you. It was really touching and meant a lot to us."
This year the mortuary decided to partner with Operation Adopt a Ghost's annual Stockings for Soldier's project.
Linda Larsen, founder and president of Operation Adopt A Ghost, said the Ogden-based tax-exempt organization began in March 2008, when her son, Chris, was deployed with the 211th National Guard. What began as taking care of four of his fellow soldiers who got nothing from home, ended up as a battalion adoption of 189 National Guardsmen from Utah and New Jersey and now spans seven states.
"We are very personal and tailor our shipments to the needs of our deployed troops, all of which are serving in the Middle East," she said. "Our current support roster is 2,600. Stocking for Soldiers will be shipping to approximately 500 of those soldiers."
"Many times these great men and women feel like they're over there all by themselves," King-Brockman said. "We want to let them know how much we appreciate them, even if it's just a small token."
Larsen said Operation Adopt a Ghost has been a faith-builder for her, as she sees every crazy impulse to do something good come about.
"There are angels everywhere just waiting for the opportunity to show our soldiers and their families how much we care about them, appreciate them and support them," she said. "I just say 'yes' when someone asks if we can do something, never knowing the how of it. It just happens."
Larsen said she also has no doubt that this is the time and place for her and many others to show, in a tangible, meaningful way, the gratitude for freedoms enjoyed.
"One volunteer calls it the 'loaves and fishes' effect," she said. "We never have enough, but we always make it happen."