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Toys To Iraq


We all have heard about dangers soldiers are facing in Iraq.  But some troops are carrying more than bullets in their uniforms.  One National Guardsman from Louisiana is reaching out to children, with the help of his friends back home and a community that was willing to try a new path to peace. Kim Riemland has the story.


It’s a lesson in contrasts.  A heavily-armed American soldier giving away stuffed toys to children in Iraq.

Barbara Cerniauskas / Husband deployed in Iraq: “It really is just a small way that we can reach out to them and show them that our soldiers are there to help.”

Barbara Cerniauskas’ (chur-NOW-skus’) husband, Chris, is deployed with a Louisiana National Guard combat team.  Their Sunday school class at First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge started the drive that collected thousands of toys.

Barbara Cerniauskas: “The response has been overwhelming.”

John Black / UPS Store Owner: “There’s more toys in here than Toys R Us has, I think.”

Business owner John Black agreed to pack the toys for safe shipment to Iraq. 

John Black: “I just think it’s good for the troops.  It helps them; it helps our cause.”

Members of the Sunday school class don’t all agree on the politics of the war.

Chris King / First United Methodist Church member: “No matter what happens, you’re always going to have people that are going to disagree and agree.  And war’s just an ugly thing, period.”

But the toy drive went beyond their differences.

Carla Leyda / First United Methodist Church member: “No matter how you feel about the war, the children are just innocent bystanders.”

These toys could even help save lives.  There are reports from soldiers about children warning them of dangers from land mines and buried bombs.

Barbara Cerniauskas: “We are doing something to maybe, you know, open the door to a new generation that will see that freedom and peace are possible.  This is just a little token to maybe get it started.”


It only took a month to collect more than three-thousand toys.  Some that were too large for soldiers to carry in their pockets were given to a local women’s shelter.

To contact First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge go to:

Also see: Toys from soldiers win hearts of Iraqi children.

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