Targusor, Romania – Nearing the holidays and away from their families, U.S. Army soldiers decide to give to the community surrounding them. On December 21st, 2022, soldiers residing at the Mihail Koglniceanu Air Base (MK) in Romania handed out Christmas presents to students attending a nearby school in Targusor.
This holiday season soldiers from the Mihail Kog?lniceanu Air Base partnered with The Romanian/U.S. Salvation Army and participated in the Angel Tree Program. The Angel Tree Program is conducted by The Salvation Army and helps provide Christmas gifts for hundreds of thousands of children each year.
“We’ve worked with the Salvation Army and participated in the Angel Tree Program before, but this year with the help of their local coordinator and the help of the 101st Airborne Division, we were able to sponsor so many more kids this year.” said U.S. Army Capt. Clinton Cochlan, 426 Brigade Support Battalion Chaplain.
According to Cochlan, the soldier’s participation is about more than just giving to the community, but also showing that they want to build a relationship.
“We go out and we see hundreds of bridges being built between the soldiers and the communities,” said Cochlan. “Whether it’s playing them music, teaching them American football, or buying them actual new store-bought presents… we’re showing them as American soldiers, we want to give.”
Dave Haas, the U.S./Romanian Salvation Army Development and Communications Manager, says that working with soldiers is always a great experience.
“We asked the soldiers at Mihail Kog?lniceanu Air Base, if they would like to participate in the Angel Tree Program this year, and they said yes. We had 144 kids that received gifts just yesterday!” exclaimed Haas. “It’s been amazing working with the soldiers. Everyone that I have worked with has had an energy that is really something to appreciate.”
With a total of 444 kids sponsored by volunteer soldiers, Haas addresses not only the impact soldiers have on the kids and their families, but the impact the kids have on the soldiers as well.
“All the people that are involved, whether it’s the kids or the soldiers, I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The kids are introduced to these people that care about them and want to protect them, and these soldiers feel like they are part of this endless giving and making a difference,” explained Haas.
“It’s a heartwarming experience being in an administrative position and being able to see how everyone is affected by this. Everyone gets to walk away with this full feeling,” Haas stated.
After receiving letters that the kids had written to Santa Claus, Mihaela Jacob, a Teacher at the Scoala Gimnaziala Nr. 1, gives insight into how this has affected the kids and their families.
Expressing her gratitude for the soldiers here at the Mihail Kog?lniceanu Air Base, Jacob describes seeing their sincerity and selflessness.
“I imagine it’s a difficult thing for soldiers to do. They have a huge soul. They come here so open and selfless and sincere.” said Jacob. “I don’t see them like they are forced to do this. They want to help. They could be doing something else, but they are here playing with the kids. I really appreciate them.”