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Service members grateful for holiday support from the area

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 6:47 p.m.

Members of the U.S. Air Force stationed overseas received holiday greetings at the perfect time, according to letters sent to Westmoreland County.

The troops thanked everyone who donated items as part of Operation Christmas Stocking, sponsored by Barnhart Funeral Home in Greensburg.

About 800 stockings — stuffed with items such as reading materials, socks, lotions and greeting cards — reached Afghanistan shortly before Christmas, funeral director Jeff Barnhart said.

“We would like to thank you for the very timely gifts that we received this holiday season,” says a letter from the 911th Airlift Wing out of Moon Township.

“The selfless and patriotic act of making sure troops from your local area receive a gift from home is a morale booster like no other,” it adds.

The funeral home on East Pittsburgh Street handed out the stockings in late November. Participants stuffed them with donated items, then returned the stockings to the funeral home for shipment.

The stockings were put into more than 30 boxes and sent overseas via the U.S. Post Office in Bovard, Barnhart said.

Even before that mailing, Operation Christmas Stocking had shipped about 4,000 stockings to soldiers over the course of four years.

Barnhart said he used word of mouth from church members and people who dropped off stockings to determine where the parcels could be sent to reach some troops from this area.

“I tried to keep it as local as I could,” he said.

The 101st Airborne Division Surgeon Staff sent back a letter with a group photo and their signatures.

“Thank you for thinking of us out in Afghanistan,” it says. “We appreciate the thought, time, expense and effort you put into sending us wonderful Christmas stockings stuffed with goodies. Your effort helped to make our holiday special.”

Operation Christmas Stocking draws appreciation from soldiers every year.

A 2010 recipient, a sailor from the USS Harry Truman, drove from Virginia to Greensburg to offer thanks and deliver a photograph of his military brethren after he returned home.

“It really made you feel good,” Barnhart said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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