Reflections of Christmas lights twinkle in puddles of water that will soon freeze to black ice. Rodney Stanhope warms his hands on the propane heater given to him by his wife as an early Christmas gift. He sits under an Army canopy in a makeshift base, flanked by armored military vehicles in the Market Square parking lot at Arden Fair mall. Powered by a generator, his DJ sound system plays techno music and the obligatory Christmas songs.
As he’s done every December for the past 10 years, the Navy veteran is camped out in a shed for 12 days in the mall parking lot until Dec. 22, accepting toys and donations for Yellow Ribbon America’s Operation Christmas For Our Troops & Their Families. The national nonprofit gives gifts to families of soldiers who are deployed or experiencing hardship. “They’re over there fighting for our freedom,” says Stanhope. “I get to go home to my kids on Christmas Day.”
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