Holidays & Heroes surprises military members

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman William Downs
  • 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs mission is to tell the Reserve Citizen Airman story. Highlighting the amazing work this wing accomplishes through its Airmen, civilians, Active Association with Active Duty (24th Fighter Squadron, located here), and geographically separated Classic Association (44th Fighter Group, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.). However, there is another group who plays a major role in our mission success, many of whom have never raised their right hand and said the oath of enlistment or commissioned.

The 301 FW is fortunate to have a supportive local community. It’s a partnership and balance which helps this wing, and the installation, become all it can be. A local community who cares and supports their military members and Reserve Citizen Airmen. I know they did for me. 

One local 501c3 organization for example, Holidays and Heroes, is in their 6th year of connecting military families with community sponsors over the Christmas season. In 2019, they supported 75 military families and last year they supported 105 military families.

 Within the Holidays and Heroes organization, a community family, or individual, can sponsor a junior enlisted member's family from the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force Guard and Reserve. The nominated families would fill out a list and the sponsors would provide the requested items in an effort to provide families who may need some assistance with a brightened holiday season. The motivation behind the whole thing is to say, “thank you for what you do”. As great as that was to be nominated by my supervisor and receive their generosity, it didn’t stop there.

Last week, I had just finished covering a weapons load assignment on the flightline and already had my camera gear ready for action, anticipating my next assignment. 

I was assigned to cover an afternoon event at the Airman Resource Center on base. As I pulled up into the parking lot, I reported to my next assignment location not quite knowing what was coming up. As I entered the room, camera gear in hand, I was met by six community volunteers wearing red Holidays and Heroes shirts. I had previously met several of the women a couple months prior at the Holidays and Heroes Christmas drive-through event, where my family, along with 104 other military families, were blessed with generous Christmas gifts from the community. I didn’t know what this amazing non-profit organization was doing this time, but I was excited to see them again. Mrs. Kerre Randel Ortegel, the president and co-founder of Holidays and Heroes, told me I would not be taking any photos here, but that they would be taking photos of me.

Seeing I was a bit confused, she explained the organization had such an overflow of generous community donations. She then handed me a small valentines themed gift bag. Mrs. Randel Ortegel said the gift bag included handmade valentines from the community, a box of chocolates, along with a $300 gift card.

What a surprise! I was truly speechless, and thanked them for the gift, and told them it was a huge blessing to my family. Given that my wife and I are only a couple months away from welcoming our third child into our home, the gift would be put to good use, and very appreciated.

The non profit organization continues to show support for the military, and help those who may be affected around tax time, or with the social security payroll tax deferral.

From the bottom of our hearts, my family wants to thank Holidays and Heroes, and all those within the community, for donating such generous gifts,and for their continued support of military families.


**No federal endorsement implied**

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