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Spirit of giving felt year around by children in Tal Afar
By Sgt. Armando Monroig, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Jan 8, 2007 - 5:48:30 AM
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Lt. Col. Malcolm Frost, 3rd Squadron, commander of the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, distributes school supplies to children during a recent visit to Tal Afar, Iraq. The supplies were donated by family and friends of Soldiers. (Photo by 1st Lt. Matthew Davis)
Blackanthem Military News, TAL AFAR, Iraq - While Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment continue to help improve the stability and quality of life for people living in northwestern Iraq, their relatives and friends have taken up the cause as well.

Through a voluntary program called Operation Horsemen Help, they’ve been able to bring the spirit of giving to the children living in Tal Afar year around.
“I loved sending the school supplies because I knew it would bring the children of Iraq, for a brief moment, some joy,” said Brenda Varga, a food service cashier at Plover-Whiting Elementary School in Stevens Point, Wis. “It makes me feel like I’m making a small contribution to someone's happiness, even if it isn't much.”

Operation Horsemen Help was organized by the members of the 1-17 U.S. Cav. Regt., an aviation unit located at Forward Operating Base Sykes, just outside of Tal Afar. Soldiers of the regiment, nicknamed “Horsemen,” belong to the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, from Fort Bragg, N.C.

The program is made possible by working through the unit’s family readiness group, an organization of family members, soldiers and civilian employees who provide mutual support during unit deployments.

The FRG was able to solicit for donations far from the unit’s home station.

“I think it is awesome people in the states are thinking about the children,” said Varga. “They are really nice people who just want to do their part. Since they can’t come over there and serve in the war then they do their part in other ways.”

About once a week, the unit receives about 10 boxes of donations, which include pens, pencils, notebooks, crayons, paper, staplers and rulers. Children also receive clothes, blankets, toys and candy.

Once the donations arrive, they’re handed out by members of the 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Light,) a unit also located at FOB Sykes which is responsible for patrolling the streets of Tal Afar.
Capt. Catherine Crocker, the personnel officer for the 1-17 U.S. Cav. Regt., said she appreciates the efforts of people who are trying to help out.
“I think it’s great. I think that’s the way we’re going to win this war - through the children and changing the way they see us at an early age,” said Crocker.
Lt. Col. Michael Pyott, the commander of the aviation regiment, said that although donators send a steady supply of gifts to the troops, they were also aware that many Iraqi children were without shoes, warm clothes, toys or school supplies.
“It’s really been amazing to see the outpouring of support,” said Pyott. “It’s heartwarming to see that folks back home want to do their part to help the people of Iraq.”

The donated items do make a difference, said 1st Lt. Matthew Davis, a civil military operations officer from Joliet, Ill., assigned to the 3-4 U.S. Cav. Regt.
“The donations help if you don’t have enough fuel to heat your home,” said Davis. “If you have a high unemployment rate and there is not enough income being generated by the family, then you can’t afford these items.”
The donations not only provide a way of helping the children in Tal Afar, they also work as a catalyst for the Iraqi police to strengthen its relationship with the community.
“While it’s nice to have the locals look favorably upon U.S. Soldiers, in the long term they really need to be able to look to their own Iraqi Security Forces and know that these are people who they can trust,” said Davis.
With the police’s participation, the Iraqi people are more likely to sympathize with the local authorities, said Davis.
Varga’s motivation comes from another source. 
“I loved sending something that the children could use, something that I knew would make a difference in their lives. I want to show them the Americans love them and will try to make their lives better.”

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