Operation Backpack 2008 give residents a way to help children in Afghanistan

Thu, 10/30/2008 - 3:30pm
By: Michael Boylan

Operation Backpack 2008

As the holidays approach, people’s thoughts often turn to helping their fellow man. Participation in food drives and donating time or money to local charities all go up as people are filled with the Christmas spirit. This year, there is an opportunity to help children in Afghanistan with a project called Operation Backpack 2008.

The project was started by soldiers from the 7th Special Forces Group in Afghanistan, of which Newnan resident Connie Keesal’s son, Joshua, is a part of. The goal is to provide 5,000 backpacks filled with new clothes, school supplies and toiletries to start their new school year on January 1.

Major Keesal has been in the Army for 12 years and has been involved in humanitarian missions while serving several times before. Most notably in Honduras in 2001.

“While serving in Honduras in 2001 as the Company Commander of a small US Army hospital, I was responsible for leading several medical humanitarian relief missions throughout the country.  It was during these missions that I learned the effectiveness of kindness and outreach,” said Keesal, who believes, along with his fellow soldiers that outreach in Afghanistan is of the utmost importance.

“Afghanistan is a country of dreadful poverty. While poor people in the United States have cell phones, drive cars, and watch TV, the poor people in Afghanistan don’t have shoes, windows, doors, and potentially can starve or die during any given harsh winter,” said Keesal. “Although there are people against the development and prosperity of Afghanistan, providing for physical necessities is an essential tool used to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.  In recent months, our unit has set up mobile medical clinics and treated tens of thousands of sick residents of Afghanistan. We have built schools and bridges, dug wells, and occasionally have shared a backpack or two full of clothes and school supplies.”

Operation Backpack 2008 is a way for the soldiers in Afghanistan to harness the generosity of their friends and loved ones to demonstrate goodwill to the real victims of the war, the children.

People participating in the program are asked to pack a toothbrush, toothpaste, a bar of soap, a comb or a brush, underwear, tennis shoes, socks, pants, a shirt, a durable winter jacket, gloves, pencils, pens, a notebook and folders in a trash bag (for waterproofing) and pack the trash bag into a new back. On the outside of the back pack, participants are asked to place a piece of tape that says the gender and age of the deisred participant.

In order to make sure that a proper distribution of boys and girls of different ages is acheived, there is a matrix on the web site, www.myspace/operationbackpack2008 that should be followed.

“Coalition soldiers throughout Afghanistan are conducting all kinds of humanitarian relief operations, said Keesal. “What we are doing, thankfully, is nothing original. My name simply was put on the mailing address because military mail requires a name.”

The website: www.myspace/operationbackpack2008  has received a lot of inquiries and Keesal anticipates being able to provide thousands of backpacks to the local children.  

“We have already begun to receive backpacks. We also have been asked about sending money.   Since we do not have access to a local mall or shopping center, we would prefer that no one send money… but instead send a fully stocked backpack.   If needed, a family or two can share the financial burden of purchasing the items in the packing list and mailing the backpack,” Keesal said.    “I would also like to emphasize the Nov. 15 deadline for mailing the backpacks.  This will allow the backpacks to arrive by mid-December and not interfere with Christmas presents arriving later in the month for the soldiers who will be serving in Afghanistan through the holidays.”

The mailing address to send the fully stocked backpack to is Joshua Keesal, Operation Back Pack, Unit 3D, APO AE 09354.

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