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‘Operation Dad’ swells to include 6,000 men – and women – deployed in Middle East

The Madison, Tenn., church is sending 6,000 gift packages this week — one to every member of the U. S. Army’s 506th Combat Brigade deployed in the Middle East — in honor of Father’s Day.
“Operation Dad” began three weeks ago when a chaplain at Ft. Campbell, Ky., asked Shannon Brown if her church would provide Father’s Day gifts for 200 men who regularly attend Sunday worship where Brown’s husband is serving in Afghanistan.
But Involvement Minister Tom Haddon, who teaches a Bible class that Brown attends, said Madison wanted to expand the project to include everyone in the brigade.
“We thought everyone there could use some encouragement, and the soldiers need to know they haven’t been forgotten,” Haddon said.
The church expected about 500 additional names and were surprised to learn there were 6,000 men and women serving in the 506th in Iraq and Afghanistan, Haddon said.
Madison members’ contributions and citywide appeals have resulted in thousands of donated gifts from hundreds of individuals and corporations in the area.
Bundled in child-sized backpacks, the gifts range from personal items and snacks to disposable cameras. They also include a small stuffed animal and two handwritten notes of encouragement — one for a soldier and one for an Iraqi or Afghani child. 
The backpacks and toy will be re-gifted to these children, said Kay Nickell, worship ministry coordinator.
The donations have filled the church gymnasium, which has opened daily to receive contributions and welcome the visitors that have sorted items, stuffed bags and packed the backpacks.
Organizers expected to meet their goal of 6,000 boxes in time to ship them for receipt by Father’s Day on June 15.
“It’schaos here right now,” said Nickell. “But it’s a God thing. No one elsecould have put this thing together in such a short period of time.”  
Nickellsaid the donations are not an indication about how people feel aboutthe war, but rather a “token of love and appreciation for our soldiers.”
“Ifeel so blessed,” said Brown, who delivered the initial request forgifts. “I couldn’t believe all the support we have gotten from thechurch and the community.” 
She said her husband and othersoldiers will no doubt be surprised when each one gets a package and apersonal note telling them that people are praying for them every day.“I think that is the greatest message we can send them.”
To help contribute toward the $30,000 cost of shipping the gifts, visit the Madison congregation’s Web site. Any funds received over the cost of shipping will be used to purchase additional gifts for the soldiers

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