Decked out in festive holiday attire and carrying ruck sacks adorned with colorful LED lights, more than 400 Soldiers from Fort Carson’s 1st Brigade...

(Photo by Pfc. Nathan Thome) Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, set up large piles of donated clothes and food for citizens of Colorado Springs as part of “Operation Happy Holiday” Dec. 2, in an effort to help those less fortunate in the Colorado Springs community.

by Sgt. Breanne Pye

1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division

Decked out in festive holiday attire and carrying ruck sacks adorned with colorful LED lights, more than 400 Soldiers from Fort Carson’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, assembled in Dorchester Park Dec. 2 for “Operation Happy Holidays.”

The Soldiers marched more than two miles along the Fountain Creek Trail, arriving at the Marian House soup kitchen with hundreds of donated goods.

“This event was an opportunity for (our brigade) to give back to the local community, who has supported us in every way since we arrived at Fort Carson,” said Lt. Col. Geoffrey Norman, commander, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div.

Preparations for the operation began two months ago, with all the units of “Raider” Brigade setting up collection locations for Soldiers and their Families to donate goods and supplies.

All the items donated during the event came directly from Soldiers and their Family members, said Norman. They donated everything from food and clothing, to household goods, which can be used by the Marian house to assist citizens in need.

“As a unit, (Soldiers and their Families) benefit so much from the hospitality of Colorado Springs and its citizens, both when they are home and when they are deployed,” said Norman. “It’s very significant to the Soldiers to have the opportunity not just to say ‘thank you,’ but to show the community how thankful they are.”

As Soldiers approached the Marian House, they were greeted with the cheers and clapping of hundreds of local residents who would benefit from the donations.

“I wanted to participate in this operation because it was an opportunity to give back to the community,” said Sgt. Cory Pagliara, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “It was great to get some of the unit’s newer Soldiers out here so they could see how much these residents directly support them, and why it is so important to give back when we have the chance.”

Pagliara said his favorite part of the operation was emptying his rucksack on tables overflowing with donated goods while citizens waited patiently to receive them.

“It was really amazing to see the tables overflowing with hats, canned goods, children’s clothing and blankets,” said Pagliara. “It was great to be able to show the people in line that offering them support is really what it’s all about, and that even though the unit is out training or on deployment, we will always do what we can to help them out when we are home.

“Though hundreds of Soldiers marched in Operation Happy Holidays, the massive amount of items donated were a direct result of the effort of an entire brigade, said Norman.

“The residents here today see nearly 500 Soldiers passing out goods and interacting with the crowd,” said Norman. “But that small number is just a fraction of the support it represents. There are 5,000 Soldiers who couldn’t be here today, who took the time to drop off a donation in the months leading up to this operation.”

“The Soldiers we have here today represent every unit in the Raider Brigade,” said Pagliara. “They represent every age group, every job field and every rank. They represent the appreciation of an entire unit for the appreciation of an entire community.”

“Seeing this kind of charity and goodwill by our troops just chokes me up,” said a woman who asked to remain anonymous. “It’s starting to get cold outside, and I didn’t know how I was going to make it through the winter.”

“God bless our troops,” she said. “God bless you all.”

Jeanne Mazerall