The Dillon Family (Ed and Terri) and Operation Santa-Nevada would like to thank the Elko community for their outstanding support in 2009. Once again, the community has joined together in letting our brave men and women know they have not been forgotten by their countrymen during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Operation Santa, started in 2004 through the Marine Corps Family Foundation, is a holiday outreach program for deployed service men and women. Our family became involved the same year as our Marine son was on his second deployment to Iraq and was gone during Christmas. This program provided a way for our family to “share Christmas” together even though we were thousands of miles away. That first year, the community of Elko, along with the Dillon family, shared Christmas with 45 Marines based on the Iraq-Syrian border.

Each year, those who volunteer through this program are provided a group of deployed service men and women to adopt. The Dillon family has been the Nevada coordinators for the last six years and with the incredible support and generosity of the community, we were able to send holiday cheer and moral support to 1,423 personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the six years our family has been involved in the program, the Elko community has been able to adopt over 5,000 men and women of our Armed Forces during the holidays.

What does Operation Santa-Nevada do? We provide each individual service man and woman adopted with a candy-filled Christmas stocking along with other goodies, all packed into a gallon-sized zip lock baggie. The individual unit is provided with a Christmas tree and decorations. Along with these Christmas-related items, additional hot chocolate, apple cider, candy, coffee, tea, socks, etc., are given to the unit. When possible, paperback books, magazines, hygiene product and such are also included. Thanks to the support of the young men and women of Adobe Middle School, individual letters to service men and women were also provided as well as several handmade posters for the troops to share.

For the last six years, the Elko community has stepped forward to support this incredible program. Through the support of individuals, organizations, clubs, churches and businesses, Operation Santa-Nevada has been able to collect the needed candy, hot chocolate, socks, coffee, etc. for our adopted group. Thanks to the generous donations from Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Newmont and several private donations, we were able to meet our shipping fees, which is the greatest expense of the program.

Each year, the Elko High School FCCLA (under the direction of Barbara Hereford) donates material, cuts, sews and fills over 350 Christmas stockings. JJ Konakis and several other ladies in the community also donate their time and talent in making the needed Christmas stockings. Several Girl Scouts, Boy Scout, and Brownie Troops in the Elko and Spring Creek area come together to fill the Christmas stockings with candy and prepare them for shipping. Given the number of stockings that are needed each year, their help is greatly appreciated.

Contrary to a rumor that started several years ago, Starbucks does in fact support our deployed service men and women. With great enthusiasm, the staff at the Starbucks in the Smiths shopping center began a ‘VIA for the Troops’ drive and the result was about 25 pounds of coffee and over 100 packages of the new instant Starbucks coffee being shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan.

This year, Operation Santa-Nevada adopted the following military personnel:

• 1864th Transportation Company, Nevada National Guard - Iraq

• 1404th Transportation Company, Arizona National Guard - Iraq

• 1/221 CAV, Armored Recon Squadron of the 11th ACR, Blackhorse, Nevada National Guard - Afghanistan

• 2 elements of the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division - Afghanistan

• 2/2/201st Marine Corps ET 6-5 (corpsman) - Afghanistan

• 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines Weapons Company - Afghanistan

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• Several local individual service men and women stationed abroad and stateside

If we listed everyone who helped support Operation Santa-Nevada, I am afraid that we would need to use an entire page in the newspaper and one of my greatest fears is that we would miss someone. Please know that your support, whether it be in time, work, newspaper space, radio/TV air time, allowing donation boxes, organizing, or donations is so greatly appreciated. Operation Santa-Nevada would not be possible without your support.

The POW*MIA Family Awareness of Elko group these last three years has organized and conducted the POW*MIA/Operation Santa motorcycle run. Thank you to all who participated, especially given the weather this time of year when the race is done. For our family, this is the highlight of the program and we support the mission of the POW*MIA. Please keep in your prayers Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl who was captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan June 30, 2009, and his family in Idaho who wait for his return.

The cruel reality of war is that it wounds all of us. For Ed and me, Operation Santa has been a means of healing our family’s wounds and for that we are eternally grateful. After six years, we feel that it is time to turn the reigns over, to be able to share with someone else the opportunity to be blessed. Lynette Vega and her family have come forward to continue on Operation Santa-Nevada next year and we know wonderful things lie ahead of them for doing this. We ask those of you who have not only been continual supporters, but those who are new supporters, to please continue to do so with Lynette next year.

Once again, Ed and I want to say “thank you” to the community for your generosity, your time, your hard work, and your support over the last six years. Operation Santa would not be possible without people like you! We salute you!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Ed and Terri Dillon

Operation Santa-Nevada Coordinators

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