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Operation Crayon Drop

<bt>In Fairfax, almost every family with school-aged children has easy access to school supplies. But in war-torn Iraq, children in some areas of the country are just lucky to go to school.

Because of that disparity, the Fairfax chapter of the American Legion, Post 177, has been busy collecting school supplies for Iraqi children. Through "Crayons for Khaldiyah," legionnaires have been gathering pens, paper, pencils and crayons to send to the First Infantry Division in Khaldiyah. The school supplies will be used to help children in the primary grades.

"You sit back and see the violence on TV and in the newspapers," said Dan Marks of Fairfax, who is in charge of getting the school supplies together. "It makes you want to help."

The idea to collect school supplies started when Post 177 commander Larry Lamborn got in touch with Maj. John Nagl, an operations officer in the First Infantry Division. Nagl had spoken with Lamborn's son, who is also currently in Iraq.

Through e-mail, Lamborn discovered that the soldiers have been trying to get the primary schools operating again. Nagl suggested that the Post send school supplies, as well as coloring books and primary-level English books, to help the schools get started.

"We're veterans, and we feel a kinship for people out there," Lamborn said. "It's the least we can do as a veterans' organization."

For the past month, the veterans have collected over 150 pounds in school supplies from veterans and other members from the community. Students with the disabled students program at Falls Church High School have contributed school supplies, and organizers have also received cash contributions, which they have used to buy more supplies.

"It's a natural thing to want to help those innocents," Marks said.

SINCE THE veterans have collected so much already, they hope to mail some of the supplies soon. But before they do, they have to go through the school supplies, ensuring that nothing inappropriate is sent, and they have to work out the logistics for the delivery, such as whether to use commercial or military means to transport the goods.

But even after they send out the school supplies, the veterans want Crayons for Khaldiyah to be an ongoing program, with the Post sending out batches of school supplies regularly.

"There's a lot of people who don't have access to channel support," Lamborn said.

Because of that, Post 177 will continue to collect school supplies, while corresponding with Nagl to determine what supplies are needed. Citizens or organizations interested in contributing supplies or funds can contact the Post for more information. Organizers said they would receive school supplies from anyone, not just legionnaires.

"Once we get this underway, it'll be a fairly steady routine," Lamborn said.