The Christmas stocking is a simple holiday tradition that can get lost in the grandeur and excess of modern holidays. In the mad dash to stack presents under the tree, stockings can be little more than an afterthought.
Yet for the 253 servicemen and women who are arriving at Fort Carson this month from deployment in Afghanistan and Kuwait, getting one of the stockings stuffed by students at Chatfield High School means they’re not alone on Christmas.
“They give us freedom, and we try to give something back,” said Ranya Kelly, executive director of the nonprofit Redistribution Center, which helps deliver the stockings to Fort Carson.
The stockings go to servicemen and women who don’t have a place to go for the holidays and who are just arriving back home, Kelly said.
For five years, students have been filling stockings with everything from razors and toothpaste to homemade cards, said Sharon McManus, a teacher at Chatfield. And by now the students have stocking stuffing down to a science.
Last Wednesday, two lines of students worked their way down a table filled with lip balm, candy, toiletries and homemade cards. As soon as a stocking was stuffed, the students jumped right back in line, ready with an empty sock.
As more students got out of class, the lines formed on both sides of the table grew longer and longer. Their efficiency and enthusiasm would put Santa’s workshop to shame.
“Every year I like to help out,” said Jessica Robles, 18, whose brother-in-law is in the military. “To help (the soldiers) have a holiday and joy for Christmas.”
“I’m really happy to help the troops,” said student Dylan Cuellar, 16.
McManus’ son Ed served three tours of duty in Iraq. During that time, she said, students in the special-education classes saw how much her son’s absence affected her, so they started sending care packages to her son and his fellow Marines.
“They wanted to feel like part of home was with them,” McManus said, because he and his fellow soldiers couldn’t be with their families during the holidays.
“Its really heartwarming,” McManus said.
Kelly knows how important getting something from home can be for soldiers overseas. Her son served in Iraq and told her that many of his fellow soldiers never received anything from home.
“Getting that little thing from home means so much to our soldiers,” Kelly said.
“There’s basically no words for it,” Michael Bergman, an Army veteran who returned in 2006 after several tours of duty, said of receiving a care package.
“It’s so exciting to open something up from the states, and really you know people are out here thinking of you,” he said.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.