KIRKUK, Afghanistan - When Airmen 1st Class Joey Granado, a native of Dallas, and firefighter with 506th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Crash-Fire-Rescue, from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., isn't working around Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq, as a firefighter, he is in charge of the program Operation Soccer Ball, which collects soccer balls for the children of Kirkuk.
Soccer has always been a way for U.S. service members to connect with children in Iraq, Operation Soccer Ball, gives people in the states a chance to be involved in creating memories for these children, according to Airmen 1st Class Granado.
The program was started in Kirkuk last year by members of the Rising Four Club, a club for junior-enlisted service members at FOB Warrior. Since then the club has collected more than 2,000 soccer balls, according to Airmen 1st Class Granado.
"We receive many of the donations because of word-of-mouth many of the firefighters have called their bases back home and told their Families to send as many soccer balls as they can to us," he said.
The Rising Four Club accepts donations from people back home, and then gives the soccer balls to Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas, to pass out to children.
Granado hopes while he is here he can spread the program across Iraq.
"I hope to get the program started in many different cities before I leave Iraq in September," said Granado, who has collected more than 400 soccer balls in a month for Kirkuk children.
To help spread the program he said the Rising Four Club members have been contacting service members on different bases and helping them get started with the program.
"We always hear stories about how excited the children in Kirkuk are to receive the soccer balls, and we want to continue to make the same positive impact across Iraq," he said.
This work, Tinker AFB Airmen collects soccer balls for Iraqi children, by SPC Jessica Luhrs-Stabile, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.