Christmas can be bittersweet for families, depending on their circumstances. This is no less true for those who serve in our nation’s armed forces. There might be a family member deployed overseas during the holiday, or perhaps their loved one has returned not quite the same as when he or she left.
Regardless of the details, the season of giving can be challenging when so much has already been given.
During the past decade, many military families have welcomed home a wounded service member, who requires medical treatment and extra care. They are happy to be together again, and thankful to have their soldier returned alive, but often crippled in more ways than one.
Financial crisis, time constraints, and other stresses can make Christmas a cause for anxiety and sorrow rather than celebration for our military families. As difficult as these situations can be, this need creates an advantageous time to demonstrate goodwill for our heroes at home.
“We have a unique opportunity at Christmas to express our gratitude and lift some of the burden for the steadfast, who have sacrificed their health and well-being to serve our country,” says Freedom Alliance president Tom Kilgannon. “This is precisely what Freedom Alliance is committed to do with our seasonal giving program, Presents for Patriots.”
Working with Family Readiness officers at various national military bases to locate the families who require the most help, Freedom Alliance endeavors at Christmas to give each home in hardship the assistance they need.
Presents for Patriots is uncommon in that it connects specific donors to specific families. The presents come specially selected and festively wrapped and are hand-delivered into the living rooms on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Each child is presented packages with his or her name on them, and what a difference that personal touch can make!
Freedom Alliance team members say they have the best job at Christmastime, being welcomed into these homes and allowed to watch the awe on a child’s face as they receive gifts from an unseen giver. Often the floor under the Christmas tree is bare before the Freedom Alliance “Santa Sleigh” is unloaded.
In the days before Christmas, one of our teams headed to North Carolina to deliver presents to homes around Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. The first stop on the way brought Christmas to the five children—ages 11, 10, 8, 2, and 3 months—of “Doc” and Carissa. Doc is a medically retired Navy Corpsman who lives with degenerative injuries to his back, hip, and legs due to nine IED blasts and other combat traumas. At 25 years of age, he faces being confined to a wheelchair within a few years.
Marine Lance Corporal Josh, who deployed to Iraq twice, was injured while serving on the Iran border with an anti-terror team. He struggles with anxiety and PTSD, as well as other service-related issues. Josh and his wife Jennifer have a two-year-old daughter, Alexzandrea, and another baby on the way.
Dan, a medically retired Marine, served 13 years as an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) technician, which means he defused bombs. He deployed three times to Iraq and survived four explosions, the last of which killed the entire EOD team except for Dan. Today he struggles with traumatic brain injuries and survivor’s guilt. Dan and his wife Susan have two children—seven-year-old Amber and nine-year-old Joshua.
There were many more families, worthy and appreciative, who participated in the Presents for Patriots program this year.
Here are a few excerpts from some of their responses:
“I am writing this letter to say THANK YOU for giving my children the best Christmas ever and the Christmas that they deserved. My kids are my life and everything to me. They have sacrificed a lot….”
“You didn’t just drop off the gifts and go. You spent time with my sons, talking to each one, and played with them. You are so AMAZING.”
“We just want everyone involved, especially the donors and you, to know how very special you made our Christmas.”
“It has been a rough year with a tremendous amount of expenses and hardships. I thank God for people like you that care enough to share their blessings.”
“Thank you so much again for everything you did, not only for our family but for all the families you support and assist. It provides us with hope that things will get better and a sense of peace knowing there are people out there who care and support you during the hardest times in your life. That is a gift beyond measure.”
“You guys are a true miracle.”