We are all aware of the way Vietnam veterans were treated by some in this country in the 60’s and 70’s. I came across an article in my local fishwrap about a couple of college students here in my home town that didn’t really care for the way protestors were behaving and came up with an idea to show their support for our local soldiers.
“There were a lot of us here that believed regardless of the war, the soldiers in Vietnam were kids like us and our friends and family,” Mugg said. “Dave especially believed we needed to do something to show our support for the troops.”On Nov. 21, 1965, Mugg and Trotter announced in the Citizen Patriot an ambitious project to gather the names of Jackson-area men and women serving in Vietnam so they could mail Christmas packages to them to help boost their morale.
It was first envisioned as a local effort however, then Gov. George Romney (yes, Mitt’s father) got wind of the idea after returning from a trip to Vietnam and decided to make it a state wide effort.
News of the effort reached Gov. George Romney, who had just returned from a visit with Michigan troops there.
On Nov. 26 – the day after Thanksgiving – Romney made Mugg and Trotter’s plan a statewide effort to put Christmas packages in the hands of every Michigan man and woman serving in Vietnam.
Operation Michigan Christmas was born.
The Pentagon was unable to provide names and addresses of Michigan soldiers so 9 newspapers across the state put out the call and just 4 days after Gov. Romney made it a statewide effort, over 3000 names and addresses had been submitted.
Dow Chemical Co. gave bottles of aspirin, tissues and Saran Wrap that covered Michigan apples. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler all contributed model cars so soldiers could give the toys to South Vietnamese children.
The packages contained candy, nuts, fruit cake, peanut butter, mixed nuts, raisins, apple sauce, gum, canned pop, ballpoint pens and stationery, sewing kits, toothpaste, razor blades, shaving cream, insect repellent and foot powder.
200 college students helped pack up gift boxes totaling more than 7,400 packages and the newspapers that collected names and addresses pitched in to pay for a charter flight to deliver the goodies.
The flight left Willow Run Airport on Tuesday, Dec. 14 and the gift boxes were in the hands of grateful soldiers by Christmas. Pentagon officials later called the “gift lift” a “logistical miracle.”
When I was in Desert Storm the most memorable thing about the holidays for me was an Apache pilot that landed in our AA on Christmas Eve, jumped out with a Santa suit on, and handed out Christmas cards from anonymous folks back home.
Please feel free to leave your holiday deployment stories in the comments below!
Merry Christmas everyone, and a special Merry Christmas to those of you spending it away from your loved ones this year.