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N.Y. firefighters bring early Christmas to Fort Bragg

About 30 firefighters from Long Island arrived at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg on Thursday morning to distribute gifts to soldiers wounded in combat.

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FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A group of New York firefighters rolled into Fayetteville Thursday morning to bring Christmas cheer to wounded soldiers.

About 30 firefighters from Long Island arrived at Womack Army Medical Center on Fort Bragg shortly before noon to distribute gifts they carried in a U-Haul truck, from laptop computers to iPods, to soldiers wounded in combat.

The effort, called Operation Wounded Warrior, is in its sixth year, and the firefighters visit military hospitals across the U.S.

"So often, they joined the military soon after 9/11. They felt it was their duty. They had to do something," said Ken Fairben, chief of the Floral Park (N.Y.) Fire Department, whose paramedic son died in the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Fairben said Operation Wounded Warrior is the firefighters' way of thanking the troops for their service.

"They stepped up to the plate. They're serving our country. Many of them have been seriously wounded, so we're here to let them know we're always going to be here for them," he said. "We absolutely respect them. We're going to support them. We'll do whatever it takes to get them back on their feet."

In addition to the gifts, the firefighters passed along Christmas cards to the soldiers that were made by children in New York.

Maj. Laura Knapp, who broke her leg in a training accident, received a card made by a firefighter's daughter and a blanket knitted by a woman who attends the firefighter's church.

"They are gorgeous," Knapp said of her gifts, adding that such support helps her and her fellow troops.

"(It's nice to know,) this long into a sustained conflict, that they still have the love of service members in their heart from that far away," she said.

The firefighters spend the year raising money to purchase gifts for injured service members.

The group will head to Camp Lejeune on Friday before going back north to visit Walter Reed Army Medical Center outside of Washington, D.C.

"As long as they're still there, we'll stand by them till the day they come home. This is showing them we care," said Scott Ballard of the Stewart (N.Y.) Fire Department.



Bryan Mims, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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