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thedrifter
01-14-09, 09:29 AM
Operation for deployed swells from a song

By Rebecca Unger
Hi-Desert Star
Published: Wednesday, January 14, 2009 2:09 AM CST

JOSHUA TREE — “I’m always thinking of ways to connect people,” says Sun Runner magazine’s publisher/editor Steve Brown. When he bought the local creative arts magazine in 2004, he came up with Operation Sun Runner to introduce deployed military personnel from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms to the music scene they might have missed in the Morongo Basin.

He started by asking Hi-Desert performers to donate a song or two that would be part of a musical mosaic sent to enlisted men and women.

“I wanted people in the armed forces to be aware of our locals, and to encourage them to look up their music up when they got back to the MCAGCC,” Brown remembers.

The music was shared, then started showing up on music bulletin boards, and that’s how the buzz began. Now, musicians from around the country are sending songs and entire CDs to Brown for inclusion in Operation Sun Runner.

Since 2004, more than 2,000 CDs have been sent to troops stationed overseas. “It’s all donated, and it’s all been very successful,” Brown is pleased to add.

The program is still in force, but there have been a few changes “that make the donations even more special,” says Brown. “We now accept new DVDs, games, books, event passes, tickets and household items.”

Another change is in how the donations get to the service personnel. “Instead of making mass shipments to units over seas, donations will be funneled through the Armed Forces YMCA on base,” Brown explains.

Marine spouses can select items each Friday at the YMCA to place in personalized care packages. Or, Brown suggests, families can take them home for themselves and share when their loved ones return home.

Anita Neu-Fultz is the executive director at the combat center’s YMCA. With a strong background in Basin non-profits, she knows how to do a lot with a little. Operation Sun Runner Friday is also Free Bread Friday, when base spouses can pick up donated bread, groceries, blankets, children’s clothing and even greeting cards for use at home or to send to deployed spouses.

Donations go quickly, especially the CDs.

“We’re isolated out here,” Neu-Fultz observes. The isolation can often take a toll on stateside spouses who can feel lonely, bored, homesick or scared. “We focus on that Marine, their spouse, and children,” Neu-Fultz says. “Deployed Marines can have peace of mind that their waiting families are cared for and can participate in many different activities so they don’t have to be alone.”

Brown is also sympathetic to the hearts and minds of the military. “Our Marines and their families are enduring repeated deployments and separation,” says Brown.

“Operation Sun Runner offers a way to help make those separations a little easier on our service personnel and their families.”

To donate to Operation Sun Runner, contact Steve Brown at 366-2700. For information on donating to the combat center YMCA programs, call Anita Neu-Fultz at 830-7481. Be sure to ask about volunteer positions at the YMCA, which needs a groundskeeper, seamstress, journalist, thrift store workers and summer camp chaperones.

Ellie