- The Washington Times - Monday, September 20, 2004

One seat will be missing around the Thanksgiving table this year for Bernie and Kathy Hintzke of West Allis, Wis. Their 22-year-old son, Adam, has been serving in the Army’s 601st Aviation Support Battalion near Tikrit, Iraq, since February.

Recently promoted Spc. Adam Hintzke and the other 550 soldiers of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion are often working 12- to 18-hour days, with temperatures reaching up to 140 degrees.

To help bring at least one of the comforts of home to Spc. Hintzke and his comrades in Iraq, the Hintzkes have initiated a campaign called Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies that will give GIs a movie — complete with theater-style treats — this Thanksgiving.

The Hintzkes and others in their community are helping prepare a Thanksgiving package for each member of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion, as well as each of the 80 soldiers in the 45th Medical Evacuation Company.

Each package will include a donated new or used DVD, two packets of microwave popcorn, two packets of presweetened drink mix, an assortment of candy, along with photographs and letters from the person or family contributing the contents, all inside a familiar red-and-white-striped popcorn box.

“It’s just a way of saying ‘thank you’ to our troops for their service,” Mr. Hintzke said.

Six boxes have already been sent to the Family Readiness Group (FRG) in Germany for them to begin assembling the packages. According to the Army, an FRG is a group “of officers, enlisted soldiers, civilians, and family members who volunteer to provide mutual social and emotional support, outreach services, and information to their fellow soldiers and family members.”

The FRG had a similar project in July where 500 holiday gifts were packaged for what was called Christmas in July. Over the course of four hours, 100 volunteers packaged goodie boxes with a Santa Claus theme to be sent as a morale booster for the troops.

Pam Lindenmeyer, FRG leader for the 601st Aviation Support Battalion in Katterbach, Germany, said the project was a huge success, and she hopes that Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies will have the same positive outcome.

“Not only did it uplift our soldiers in Iraq, but it gave our families a sense of hope and accomplishment to come together in such a momentous fashion,” Mrs. Lindenmeyer said. “Having projects like Take a Soldier to the Movies gives [families] an attainable goal to concentrate on, a concrete way to touch the lives of their soldiers and loved ones, and a productive way to pass the time. It is definitely a win-win situation.”

The operation has a Web site (www.soldiertomovies.org) for Americans who want to learn more or contribute to the effort to provide a touch of home for U.S. troops in Iraq.

“I think it would be great for the American people to step up,” Mr. Hintzke said. “We’re going to be home at Thanksgiving, with our nice TVs and delicious meals. These guys just don’t have the comforts that we do. We’re also hoping to raise enough movie packages to adopt other military units in Iraq. We’d adopt them all if we had the resources.”

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