Holiday Hospitality Reaches War Zone

Holiday Hospitality Reaches War Zone
Alumnus Marc Yim (far left) is on his
third deployment since 2003.
Capt. Yim (far left) gets into the holiday spirit in Iraq with other troops.
(From left) Student Nicklaus Bertulfo, Daniel Smith, coordinator of Studio 6, and student Richard Liu pack up computer games for Yim's troops.

Capt. Marc Yim may be halfway around the globe serving at a combat support hospital in Baghdad, yet he and his troops are on the minds of quite a few people here at home.

Since first deployed to Iraq in 2003, Yim, a 2001 graduate of the Collins School of Hospitality Management, has kept in touch with his professors. Over the years, and especially this holiday season, his former professors have cast a large net seeking help to collect messages of support and gifts for Yim and his soldiers.

Their net reaches across campus and the country. Many people, including Cal Poly Pomona students, staff and faculty, have sent a variety of gifts including video games, DVDs and See's candy.

“The response is overwhelming and the soldiers are getting so excited. I always tell people it's who you know and not what you know. The Christmas spirit is definitely in the air. Many families are sending ornaments and little trees to some of our soldiers. We will be waiting with open arms to receive all of the care packages,” the Army Medical Corps captain stated in an e-mail from Iraq. “My mission was for each of my soldiers to be able to open at least one present on Christmas. I believe my mission is complete.”  

Yim is on his third deployment, and is currently stationed at a front-line hospital at the Victory Base Complex. Many wounded soldiers and prisoners of war receive treatment at the hospital, and the work never ceases. Despite the intense daily demands, Yim remains connected through e-mail with Collins School professors Don St. Hilaire and Barbara Jean Bruin, who have rallied the “troops” back home, per se.

“I had Marc in two classes and I'm so blessed we stayed in touch since he graduated,” Bruin says. “He was such a great student.”

Through friends and word-of-mouth, St. Hilaire has been able to expand the reach of people to Texas, Pennsylvania and New York. St. Hilaire's longtime friend retired Lt. Colonel Charles Hathaway has also helped spread the word to his friends and family and even coined the gift giving as “Operation Merry Christmas.”

” 'Operation Merry Christmas' has snowballed into quite an event,” St. Hilaire says. “It is really great to be a part of this endeavor.”

Bruin adds, “It has gone wild. You can never send them too much.”

At Cal Poly Pomona the help has come from many places. In addition to donations from the Collins School professors, Suzanne Donnelly at the Bronco Bookstore and the Division of Instructional & Information Technology have offered to help.

Daniel Smith, coordinator of I&IT's Studio 6, and student assistants Richard Liu and Nicklaus Bertulfo, recently collected about 10 computer games for Yim's soldiers.

“I know it's something small but I hope it will give them some type of relief during the holidays,” Smith says.

For some time, Yim has sought donations from a number of major companies and celebrities, however due to the controversial nature of the war, he has been turned down more often than not. He's grateful for the attentiveness and compassion he's received through “Operation Merry Christmas.”

“It would never (have) been possible without the help of my professors Don and BJ and all their connections,” Yim stated in an e-mail. “I wish you could see how the improvement of the morale increased just when I posted the e-mails on the community board. Thank you again in advance and keep up the great work. I consider you guys our guardian angels.”

Those interested in supporting Yim and his troops can send letters and packages to:

CPT Marc Yim

“Operation Merry Christmas”

Task Force 31

Unit #42161

APO AE 09342