Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oregon National Guard Alpha Company Invites Community To "Operation Warm Welcome"

Guns, music and chili dogs!

Eclectic event offers something for everyone with a special appearance from Santa himself!

By RaeLynn Ricarte - The Dalles Chronicle

Alpha Company soldiers invite community members to visit The Dalles Armory on Saturday, Dec. 3, and view an exhibit of weapons and gear that are carried by troops on the battlefield.

The display will include everything from assault rifles to a rocket grenade launcher and the heavy Kevlar vest that is worn for protection in combat zones. Soldiers will be present from 10 a.m. to noon to explain how each item works and answer questions.

"We want to provide people with an opportunity to learn a little bit more about the recent deployment of our unit and the role these soldiers have played in Operation Iraqi Freedom and, more recently, Operation New Dawn," said SFC Benjamin Hall.

He recently returned with the 3rd Battalion 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team from a 10-month tour of duty in Iraq. He is now overseeing operations at the local armory with the transfer of SFC Alex Porter to battalion headquarters in La Grande.

The Gorge Heroes Club will be selling baked goods and chili dogs at the armory on Dec. 3 in support of Operation Warm Welcome, which is intended to help soldiers without jobs and, in some cases, a place to live. Area residents are urged to make monetary donations that will provide the soldiers with shelter during the cold winter months or contribute coats, sizes large through 2X, sleeping bags, food and business clothing for interviews.

"The unemployment rate for veterans right now is almost twice as high as that for civilians and we believe the patriotic thing to do is to give back to these soldiers who were sent to war by their country," said Terri Hansen of Hood River, vice-president of the heroes club.

A silent auction will take place on the morning of Dec. 3 and the featured items include two gift certificates for a three-night stay at a Newport Bay condo, ski passes at Mount Hood Meadows, back packs, a DVD player, pottery and a hand-loomed rug.

Holiday care packages for troops serving in Afghanistan will be assembled in the armory at 11 a.m. Saturday and people are invited to help fill those boxes. Daphne Blanchard, mother of two Army soldiers, has designed holiday cards that area residents can sign if they come a little earlier. Snack and hygiene items for the boxes that are sent to military units in Afghanistan each month will also be gratefully accepted.

To add to the festivities of the day, The Dufur Boys have donated their services and will be performing Christmas and patriotic music in exchange for a hot bowl of chili prepared by Carol Roderick of The Dalles.

"This is definitely a program with something for everyone and a great way for people to say 'Thank You' to our troops and help make their holidays a little merrier," said Roderick, a member of the heroes club who is helping to organize the event.

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