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Oprah Showers Fort Campbell Moms-to-Be With Baby Gifts

By Jakki Williams and Kelly Pate
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky., Oct. 8, 2004 – Daytime talk-show host Oprah Winfrey gave a baby shower for 640 expectant mothers here Sept. 20, filming a show scheduled for broadcast Oct. 11.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Tom Day hands a car seat to Chief Warrant Officer Bernard Flerlage at a warehouse on Fort Campbell, Ky., Sept. 21, the day after Oprah Winfrey taped her baby shower show at the base that's airing Oct. 11. Photo by Sunny Medina
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

For overseas military audiences, the segment will air Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. Central European Time on AFN-Prime-Atlantic and at 11 a.m. Tokyo/Seoul Time on AFN-Prime-Pacific.

Oprah told a local Nashville television station that the shower was her way of saying thanks to servicemembers. "It's a way of honoring the sacrifice without doing a lot of big speeches and 'oh la la la la,' she said. "It's a way of saying we see you, we hear you, we know what you do to make our lives safer and we thank you for it."

Women soldiers and wives of active-duty troops were on their feet for much of the taping as they filled the temporary set put up at the 101st Airborne Division headquarters.

With fathers standing in the aisles, the expectant mothers received a wide range of gifts -- from strollers with matching car seats to baby booties. Hollywood stars Cindy Crawford and Heather Locklear described their favorite baby supplies and then gave one to every mother. Crawford moved from the set to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, where she was on standby while a new mother gave birth.

Country singer Kenny Chesney sang his hit "There Goes My Life" and Martina McBride sang "In My Daughter's Eyes" to the excited crowd. Oprah herself serenaded the mothers-to-be during one of the commercial breaks at the taping.

The still-surprised mothers-to-be began lining up at a warehouse on post to receive their gifts the day after filming.

"We got here at about 5:45 a.m.," said Jill Blunt, one of the expectant mothers. "They started handing out the stuff at about 8:15. We are getting a lot of nice items. You think you are ordinary, then you realize you are a part of an extraordinary group of 640 other women giving birth in the same timeframe as you."

The line of mothers and fathers followed the length of the building and snaked around to the back. Trucks had been unloading the gifts at the warehouse for three weeks in preparation for the event.

"We deal with the soldiers every day," said Paul Dorner, Installation Supply and Services Division manager. "Storing the gifts was our way of doing a little bit for the families at Fort Campbell."

Many of the mothers were first-time moms, but some, like Jeanette Flerlage, are experienced in what a baby requires. "This is the most exciting thing that happened," said Flerlage. "This is a blessing since this is our third child. We have a lot of stuff that is hand-me- downs and it's nice to give the baby new things."

Even standing in line to receive their gifts, some of the mothers could not believe the Oprah show had come to the post -- much less given them full repertoires for their babies.

"[The show] was great. I was crying; it was awesome," said Leshawnia Culp, who is pregnant with her first child. "It is a real blessing. Financially, it takes a lot of burden off us. I was amazed to get a chance to see her."

(Jakki Williams and Kelly Pate work at Fort Campbell, Ky.)

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