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thedrifter
04-21-06, 12:54 PM
Date Thu, 20 Apr 2006 17:19:55 -0500
Operation Care Packages brightens lives of Marines
Apr. 20, 2006 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert * (615) 7425470* Nashville {227}

NOTE: Photographs are available at umns.umc.org.

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

It's the little things that make a big difference for soldiers at Camp Fallujah - like a care package of Doublemint gum that arrived just in time for St. Patrick's Day from some United Methodist church members "back home."

Top of the wish list for April? Microwave popcorn.

United Methodist Chaplain Ron Newhouse coordinates "Operation Marine Care Packages" from his tent at Camp Fallujah to help young Marines, sailors and soldiers deal with the "sparse amenities" at the camp in Iraq.

"Life here is very basic and very dangerous," he says. "Care packages are a huge boost to the morale of our Marines."

Handing out the "goodies" also gives Newhouse a chance to connect with Marines who don't always attend chapel services.

"When I deliver care packages, I connect with them by bringing the love and hope of Christ into their lives," he says.

Newhouse is the minister of administration at Edmond (Okla.) New Covenant United Methodist Church. He was called up for active duty in January and is deployed with the Marine 9th Communications Battalion at Camp Fallujah.

"I have been a Navy Reserve chaplain for six years," he says. "This is the first time I have been called up for active duty." He served other reserve commands in the Oklahoma City Navy Reserve Center, Fleet Hospital Dallas and Commander Destroyer Squadron 23.

Test of endurance

Accomplishing the simplest tasks at the camp - such as going to dinner, getting laundry done and using the computer - takes a lot more time than those tasks would take in the United States, Newhouse says.

"We walk to every place we go to at Camp Fallujah. You don't just hop in the car to go to chow. You have to walk. When you need laundry done, you have to walk to the laundry facility and leave your laundry to be picked up the next day. We do have Internet access, but it is very slow. No high-speed DLS here! We have good food and air conditioning; however, the long walks in the heat can be a real test of endurance."

The camp has been hit several times by mortars and while no one has been hurt, "we have to be on alert all the time," he says.

"Life outside of the wire, as we call it, is really dangerous. We have not lost any Marines in my battalion, but some battalions have lost Marines to the roadside bombs. The amount of gear you wear outside the wire is good but heavy, especially in the heat."

'Pray for us'

Newhouse says the most important gift congregations can give those serving in the armed forces is daily prayer. "Please take a moment each day to pray for us," he says. "Also, pray for the Iraqi people; there are many Iraqis who are Christians."

In addition to handing out care packages, Newhouse likes to honor each Marine's birthday. On his Web site, he has a list of items by month that he knows the Marines will enjoy. Beef jerky and Jolly Ranchers are always welcome, he adds.

"I picked the items on the list for care packages because these are items that won't melt while in transit to our camp," he says. "It gets to about 120 (degrees) here in the summer months, so chocolate candy bars and related items will not hold up."

For a list of care items needed and information on how to participate, visit the Web site www.ronnewhouse.com/ or send an e-mail to Newhouse at ronald.newhouse@cemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

United Methodist News Service Photos and stories also available at: umns.umc.org

Ellie