The world's most powerful military has a soft spot for kids and Christmas, and they show it every year through a number of toy drives and holiday events. Here are 5 annual operations designed to being Christmas cheer to kids in need:
1. Toys for Tots
The largest and best known of the military toy drives, Toys for Tots is ran by the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation as a mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. Nationwide, Marines and veterans collect new toys and run events year round to give Christmas cheer to children across the country. Other military services get involved by holding their own toy drives to donate to the Toys for Tots program.
2. Operation Toy Drop
The Randy Oler Memorial Operation Toy Drop is an annual event where paratroopers donate toys and are given a chance to earn foreign jump wings. This year, 4,300 paratroopers and their supporters donated 6,000 toys. With seven nations participating, Operation Toy Drop is the world's largest Airborne operation.
3. Santa's Ruck March
In Santa's Ruck March, soldiers and family members from two brigades at Fort Hood, Texas conduct a one-mile march with rucksacks filled with toys to Santa's Workshop where all the toys are placed on large tables. The annual event supports over 3,000 Fort Hood children.
4. Fill the Boat Toy Drive
Hosted by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Fill the Boat Toy Drive selects a charity that supports children every year to distribute toys collected in a large boat with Santa and Mrs. Claus presiding over the collection. In 2015, hundreds of toys were given to the Ronald McDonald House to distribute to children spending the holiday in the hospital.
5. Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Anderson toy drive
Split between two locations, Anderson Hall in Joint Base San Antonio, Texas and Longmont, Colorado, this toy drive memorializes Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Christopher Anderson who died on a deployment to Ramadi, Iraq. The toys collected are sent to the Longmont Police Department in Anderson's hometown and to the Marine Corps' Toys for Tots.
There are also other military operations that center on the holiday. The Air Force drops toys, books, and humanitarian assistance on Pacific islands every year in Operation Christmas Drop. NORAD tracks Santa's progress across the world every Christmas Eve.