In 2002, then PFC Joseph Campbell, was on a homeland security deployment and spent Christmas out in the field. The American Red Cross provided small care packages for the Soldiers which were distributed by his chain of command. The packages contained socks, gum, a mug and a few other items, but one of the most memorable items was a letter, written to "Any Service Member" by a teenager. "Nathan" wrote about how grateful he was for the service Joe was giving and his willingness to sacrifice time with his family to protect our country, especially on Christmas Day.
Four years later, in 2006, Project Rudolph was created to give deployed service members a bit of holiday cheer. Originally it was intended just to provide gift bags to troops transitioning through one of the largest military airports in the world as they wait for their next flight. Ramstein Airport, located at Ramstein Air Force Base, is an Airport of Embarkation (APOE) in Central Region (Ramstein Air Base) with facilities to fully meet the needs of deploying Army forces. According to the USO between 100-750 military members pass through Ramstein Airport on their way to and from the Middle East each day, including holidays. For many of these service members it is another holiday spent away from family and friends. Some may be returning to their families while others just said goodbye for a year-long deployment.
The goal of Project Rudolph, in conjunction with Operation Angel - is to provide gift bags for not only the military members transitioning through the airport on days leading up to Christmas, but also for active duty Air Force members who work round the clock to keep the airport running smoothly, injured troops at the hospital, injured warriors at transition barracks, deployed Naval and Marines working in Germany and our deployed troops downrange.
In 2006 we were able to reach our goal and were able to provide gift bags to the service members spending their holiday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital outside the United States. LRMC is for troops with serious injuries or illness requiring surgery and hospitalization. About 50 soldiers are hospitalized at any given time and the average stay is under a week before being stabilized and sent on to a military hospital in the US.
When we found out that we needed between 500-750 bags to make sure all the military members passing through Ramstein Airport had a bag, we were overwhelmed. We had no idea how we would ever gather so many items.
Ian M. Archibald, a 16-year old from Oakley, Idaho, stepped up to the plate and took on Project Rudolph 2006 as his Eagle Scout Project. By him becoming involved in this project we were be able to provide even more cheer to more service members without becoming overwhelmed.
Project Rudolph could not happen without the help of our supporters from around the world. For those who helped last year, and those who are helping this year, you will never know how much good you are doing this holiday season or how much one of these bags will mean to a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who is looking at a year away from family and friends.
As a Soldier and the wife of a Soldier we have spent several holidays away from the comforts of home and our families. Receiving a letter, a treat, or a note just showing support, love, and appreciation goes a long way to making a holiday spent away from loved ones a bit more bearable. Project Rudolph now makes it possible to provide this support for upwards of 15,000 service members, who will no doubt remember this act of service and love for a long time. To read notes of appreciation from last years recipients, check out our guest book.
We hope to involve more communities in this effort through schools, churches, youth groups, clubs, and individual donations. Please help by sharing this information with others so that we may be able to reach our goal. Thousands of lives have been touched through this project. Those receiving, those donating, and those distributing have all had their hearts touched.
Sgt. Joseph and Tawny Campbell
Founders of Project Rudolph