Chief Warrant Officer Jared Kimber performs a somber military duty in Iraq flying a Blackhawk helicopter into combat zones, then transporting injured soldiers to safety and lifesaving medical care.
But amid the ugliness of battle, he and his flight crew from the U.S. Army's 82nd Medical Company simultaneously deliver joy to war-weary Iraqi children. Chief Warrant Officer Kimber, an LDS soldier from Tremonton, Utah, has become one of Iraq's "toy bombers" dropping soccer balls, jump ropes and other goodies from their helicopter to youngsters below.
The first wave of toy bombings began last April when Chief Warrant Officer Kimber and his crew were flying north of Kirkuk. They spotted a group of children kicking around a flattened, weathered soccer ball. "My son wrote that he had never seen such poor people," said the soldier's mother, Cathy Kimber.
Saddened by the sobering poverty, the crew returned to the military base and gathered up loose balls, Frisbees and other recreational equipment. Then they flew back to the village and dropped the toys to delighted children below, Sister Kimber said.
Thrilled by the sight of happy Iraqis, Chief Warrant Officer Kimber contacted his mother and asked her to send more toys. Soon a full-fledged, home-front toy drive was underway to re-supply Iraq's toy bombers.
"People would always ask about Jared and ask if there was anything they could do," Sister Kimber said. "We would tell them about the (toy request), then they would tell their friends." Soon the story of the toy bombing was gleaning media attention.
"We have heard from sea to shining sea," Sister Kimber said. "A whole box of yo-yos was sent from Hollywood, Calif." Other big-hearted folks have shipped toys directly to Iraq, earmarked for the toy bombers. Sister Kimber established a Web site to accommodate the many requests to contribute toys: toybomber.org
The toy bombings have offered regular, home-front folks a chance to deliver a measure of happiness to Iraq. "People have responded, saying, 'What your son is doing is good, and we want to do something," Sister Kimber said.
Almost any sort of child's toy is welcome, as long as it is reasonably small and can withstand a 50- to 100-foot drop from a helicopter.
Chief Warrant Officer Kimber's toy bombing adventures bring a bit of deja' vu to many Utahns. At the end of World War II, Army Air Corps pilot Gail Halverson earned the moniker "The Candy Bomber" after dropping candy bars from his C-54 Skymaster bomber to German children below. Amazingly, Brother Halverson and Chief Warrant Officer Kimber both attended Bear River High School in Tremonton.
Collecting toys for poor Iraqi children has been a spiritual experience, Sister Kimber said. She and her son have been humbled by the generosity of many worldwide.
"It's the gospel of love, the gospel of charity, the gospel of kindness and the gospel of service in action," she said.
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