Ravens Send Holiday Cheer To Afghanistan

Head Coach John Harbaugh funded 300 care packages to be sent to the front lines.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 at 11:38 am | Categories: Ryan Mink

It’s said that the Ravens are “battling” for the AFC North, the top seed in the playoffs, the Super Bowl.

But that’s nothing – not even close – to the battle going on overseas.

Care PackagesThat’s why in the midst of Baltimore’s playoff chase, the Ravens and Head Coach John Harbaugh stopped to help those serving our country this holiday season.

The Ravens sent 300 care packages funded by Harbaugh to American soldiers on the front lines in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

“It’s a chance at Christmas time to do something for somebody else, and who better than the guys and gals that are out there in lonely places doing hard drives and risking their lives?” Harbaugh said.

Each package had a Christmas card, including a Ravens’ team photo with handwritten notes from players, coaches and front office staff. Every player and coach filled out at least one card.

They also included Ravens T-shirts and other team apparel, as well as small luxuries that are difficult or impossible to obtain abroad, such as boxes of Little Debbie Christmas cakes, candy, chocolate bars, chewing gum, beef jerky and magazines.

Care PackagesIt wasn’t easy finding a way to get the packages into the country safely and into the hands of the right people, as many border crossing points to Afghanistan were closed last month in protest against a NATO raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Colonel Geoff Ling provided guidance, and FedEx played a major role in ensuring the delivery of the packages by Christmas. The packages arrived at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan Wednesday.

Former 82nd Airborne Division Company Commander Jason L. Gardel has ensured all the packages will be distributed by Christmas and will be hand delivering some personally to soldiers on the battlefield.

Packages will also be delivered via logistics units that move with the troops, and military chaplains have volunteered to collect and distribute boxes to troops within their own battalions.

Care PackagesIn all cases, these boxes will be delivered to junior soldiers who are in the greatest need in Southern Afghanistan outposts, many of whom are fulfilling multiple, successive deployments.

“It kind of went without saying that it was going to be the guys in the most remote places,” said Harbaugh, who received help in making the execution happen from many Ravens staff members.

During Harbaugh’s tenure, the Ravens have been intimately involved with the military.

Harbaugh has a personal tie – a cousin of his spent a few years in Iraq – but he gained even more of an appreciation after going on the inaugural NFL-USO Coaches Tour to the Persian Gulf during the Summer of 2009.

“Once you go over there and you get a chance to experience what they’re doing and the reality of it, it makes you want to do something to help,” Harbaugh said. “What you can do is so miniscule.”

Care PackagesEver since then, he has brought many soldiers to the Ravens’ training facility to watch practice and speak to the team, from four-star general Raymond Odierno to those involved with the Wounded Warrior Project.

On Oct. 22, Sgt. First Class Allen Wiseman visited the facility to share his story.

Wiseman was shot in Afghanistan the night of the Ravens’ divisional playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs after he didn’t have a chance to continue his tradition of wearing a Ravens jersey underneath his body armor. He gave his Purple Heart to linebacker Ray Lewis.

Now Ravens are just trying to give a little holiday cheer in return.

“We’re all fine here,” Harbaugh said. “If we could do something for somebody else, that’s what we want to do. But when you do something like that, you actually get more out of it than what they are. I’m sure we’re getting more out of it.”

Check out the photo gallery from Afghanistan

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