News>Feature - Cards for Troops help spread holiday cheer
Senior Airman Amber Sams (second from left) helps Capt. Saunya Bright (second from right) find the perfect holiday card Nov. 30 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. As part of the self-initiated Cards for Troops program, Airman Sams handed out more than 30 boxes of holiday cards to Air Force Theater Hospital staff and patients here. Airman Sams is a 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron recreation coordinator deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va., and Captain Bright is assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Support Squadron and deployed from Lackland AFB, Texas. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Terri Barriere)
Frances Gonzalez (from left to right) and Senior Airman Amber Sams pass out holiday cards to Capt. Colleen Lamp and Tech. Sgt. John Lafauci Nov. 30 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. Airman Sams is a 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron recreation coordinator deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. Ms. Gonzalez is a Cards for Troops volunteer. Captain Lamp and Sergeant Lafuci are assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron intermediate care ward and deployed from Lackland AFB, Texas.(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Terri Barriere)
by Senior Airman Terri Barriere
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
12/18/2007 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- What began as a small idea soon became a big initiative for a Balad Air Base Airman.
Senior Airman Amber Sams had no idea what she was in for when she asked her small hometown of Morocco, Ind., for Christmas cards. But soon, the boxes started pouring in.
"Last time I was deployed through the holidays, the base exchange was in a tent," said Airman Sams, a 332nd Expeditionary Services Squadron recreation coordinator deployed from Langley Air Force Base, Va. "They didn't have a wide variety of holiday greeting cards or any that were really cool, so I thought it would be a good idea to provide cards."
It started with an e-mail to her stepmother, and soon the whole town -- a population of approximately 1,150 -- was involved, sending more than 2,000 cards to date.
The people of Morocco felt a sense of duty and wanted to support deployed servicemembers any way they could, said Marlene Taden, Airman Sams' stepmother and major contributor to the program.
"Our town is exceptional with helping out good causes," Airman Sams said. "We are a rural Indiana community that, when asked, will all pitch in and help. We are proud of our troops."
And so the Cards for Troops program was born.
"You're only as strong as your support system," she said. "And if you don't have a strong connection with that support system, it could potentially hurt your focus on the mission here. What I'm trying to do is bring my fellow servicemembers morale up and help them get through the holidays."
Airman Sams used her off-duty time to disperse the cards the past few weeks. Some were sent to remote forward operating bases. Some cards were kept for people here, and some she kept for extra special recipients -- like wounded members at the Air Force Theater Hospital and Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility.
"It was more than just helping them get Christmas cards home, it was about listening to their stories and giving them another face to look at besides doctors and nurses," she said.
Patients and staff members alike were impressed with the Airman's holiday spirit.
"It makes me feel well taken care of," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Pruitt, a CASF patient. "It's nice to know there are people out there doing more than just their job, and trying to make us feel at home. It's so hard to get to the exchange and shop. It's a wonderful thing they're doing."
The volunteers' friendly faces spread welcomed holiday cheer throughout the hospital, said Tech. Sgt. John Lafauci, a 332nd Expeditionary Medical Operations Squadron intensive care ward shift leader.
"It's great for others to come and help at the hospital," he said. "We get so busy with medical care we can't always sit and chat. The volunteers help with that a lot, and we really appreciate that and the patients too -- especially during the holidays."
Airman Sams said the project was a huge undertaking, but as a services Airman, it's her job to provide support and morale and she couldn't think of any better way or time than to help during the holidays.