News: 341st Psychological Operations Company soldiers give toys to children
By Staff Sgt. April Evaro
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - The 341st Psychological Operations Company arrived like Santa Claus with Humvees full of toys to the Wilford Fisher House located on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The first Wilford Fisher House began in 1991, when Fisher was on a business trip and noticed a sailor who had been sleeping in his car. Fisher asked the man why he was staying in his car and he said he couldn’t afford a hotel room so Fisher paid for a room out of his pocket.
“We now have a total of 26 rooms here in San Antonio,” said Ramona Lewis, the manager of the San Antonio House. “All Fisher Houses provide a home away from home to care for all the military families; be it either a military member, family member or a spouse receiving care, and all veterans are welcome here.”
For their first year participating in Randy Oler Memorial Toy Drop, the 341st Psychological Operation Company really grabbed hold of the mission.
“I was happy to participate because I wanted to give back to the local community and military families. Toy Drop helps to alleviate some of the stress of the holidays for parents who may not be able to give toys due to an illness, trauma or hardship” said Staff Sgt. Robert Sims of the 341st Psychological Operations Company.
The Randy Oler Memorial Toy Drop is in its 14th year and has gone national since its beginning in Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1998. Thousands of toys have been donated and distributed this year to children’s homes and social service agencies not only in North Carolina, but in Texas, Louisiana, California, Washington, Missouri, and New York.
As soon as the members from the 341st arrived, soldiers jumped out of their Humvees and formed a single file formation to unpack and pass out toys to the children anxiously waiting. There were puzzles, games, action figures, dolls and accessories for children ages 10 months to 18 years. As the soldiers handed each child a toy, they immediately saw a smile on each of the children’s face as they graciously accepted.
“I think this is so great that the soldiers are giving to the children,” said Stephanie Garza, the mother of 10 month old, Ryan Servin. “The children had such huge smiles on their faces. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of, and it is really appreciated.”
The toys were donated by the Kids Wish Network, a national charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network approached Operation Toy Drop planners wanting to donate thousands of toys to the operation – and the organization graciously provided shipping anywhere in the country. This allowed Operation Toy Drop to expand outside of the Fort Bragg area and include Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations units in eight additional cities.
“This will be the first time (my family) will not be together for Christmas and I am glad to be able to send these toys to them so that they will have something for Christmas,” explained Griselda Martinez, current resident of the Fisher House” We are here because my baby had open heart surgery two months ago and my other children are with my husband’s parents in New Mexico. The kids will be really happy to see these gifts. I want to thank (the soldiers) for bringing the toys and giving them to the kids,” Martinez said.
After the children received their toys, they ran outside the Fisher House and climbed into the Humvee while members of the 341st Psychological Operation Company showed them how to use the turret. While the toys were a big hit and all the parents and children were very thankful, the biggest excitement came from seeing the soldiers in full gear and being able to climb in the Humvee.
“My favorite part was getting in the Humvee because I’ve never been in a truck like that before,” said Vasquez. “Today I learned about the soldiers and how they have given over 12,000 toys to those who need it. I got a glow in the dark laptop desk pad, a Taylor Swift doll, beads and crafts,” said Raven Vasquez, a visitor of the Wilford Fisher House. “I feel proud that the soldiers came, and I am very thankful.”
Soldiers also brought toys to the St. Pj’s Children’s Home and The Children’s Shelter in the local San Antonio area.
In all, Operation Toy Drop expects to distribute 20,000 toys to children and families in need this holiday season.