Fort Riley Christmas arrived early at Fort Riley on Monday, bringing packages for soldiers deployed overseas and smiles for those left behind with heavy hearts.
Soldiers unloaded a truck carrying more than 6,000 care packages at the post. The soldiers then promptly placed the packages in cardboard boxes, each about the size of a desk, and secured them in a warehouse, two or three boxes high, for flight by military aircraft to Iraq.
"It's a goal back here to make sure that families and soldiers have a merry Christmas," said Sgt. 1st Class Wade Greif of San Antonio, Fla., as cargo netting went over the boxes of goodies. "This is a detail that makes you feel good."
Greif said few people realized how many people it takes to support the soldiers on the ground and saw Monday's delivery as an example of accomplishing that mission while taking care of soldiers and their families.
The packages were the effort of Ruth Ann Young, a Kirkland, Wash., resident who wanted to do something to help soldiers during the holidays.
Young created a community project in her Seattle suburb. Residents raised $210,000 for care packages.
A $35 contribution helped send a box with snacks, lip balm, eye wash and personal letters to one soldier in Iraq.
"This is a very small gift to our troops for what they give us, keeping us all so safe here at home in the good ol' U.S. of A.," Young said in a statement.
The packages are scheduled for shipment to Iraq this week, arriving in one to two weeks.
Spec. George Kouznetsov, 20, of Eaton, Ohio, is a member of the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry, of the 1st Armored Division and recently returned from duty in Iraq. He helped unload the truck and said soldiers overseas would appreciate the gesture.
"It really shows soldiers that people really care," he said.