USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JCC 20) -- When Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles S. Arnold, Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa communications chief, Data Network Systems, received a package from Pennsylvania on New Year's eve, he says he was mildly surprised. Yes, he has relatives there - he's from Kane, Penn. - but he wasn't expecting a package.
His surprise turned to amazement when he opened the box. Inside were hundreds of cards from St. Angela Merici School students from White Oak, Penn. and the Ladies of Charity, St. Germaine Parish of Bethel Park, Penn.
The box could have come from a cousin who recently began teaching, he surmised.
Even though there was no letter of explanation included, the intent was obvious - both children and adults wanted to make sure the CJTF-HOA service members knew Americans were thinking about them this holiday season.
It appeared that a lot of effort had gone into personalizing the carton of cards, from the pre-manufactured ones from the Ladies of Charity with handwritten notes to the homemade cards from the students.
"I just think it's great that both kids and adults took the time to put this together," said Arnold. "I thank them for it."
The bundles of cards were separated - half were given to the ship's crew and half were given to CJTF-HOA personnel who are stationed on both the ship and in Djibouti.
"The effort the kids put into making all those cards just made my day," Arnold said.
Arnold was especially taken by the homemade cards. He said it gave him a great feeling to look at the obvious effort put into the students' cards -- some of them made pop-up figures for the cards and most of the cards had messages.
The students' notes included traditional holiday greetings and patriotic messages.
"Happy holidays," wrote Jessica. "Thank you very much for protecting our country. This time of year is the best for giving, so I give this card to you as a token of my gratitude."
From Scott, "Merry Christmas. I hope you have a great Christmas. You are in our prayers."
"I'm writing just to let you know other people think about you. Lots of love," Sandy penned.
"Good luck in war. Protect our country from terrorists," Mark wrote in crayon.
A fitting request for this task force whose mission is to disrupt and defeat terrorist groups in the global war against terrorism.