MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- With the Christmas holidays approaching, families start shopping for gifts for their loved ones and planning trips or vacations. This time of the year can be hard on those who are separated over the holidays because of deployments. It can be even more difficult for those families trying to stretch their money over the holiday season.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars set out to help lessen the burden.
More than 70 military families aboard the Combat Center will receive a little extra Christmas joy this holiday season through donations from the VFW.
Col. James R. Braden, Combat Center chief of staff, accepted more than $5,500 in donations for military families Dec. 6 from VFW post 1508, Wildomar, Calif.
The money will be distributed to military families to help during the Christmas holidays, or for whatever needs the family may have.
“VFW is trying to step up to the plate to help you [military families],” said James Kokas, VFW military assistance program chairman for California. “This is what the VFW does. We’ve already served and have to support those who are serving now. It’s a combined effort.”
Kokas presented 20, 400-minute phone cards to Braden so Marines and Sailors who are deployed can talk to their loved ones.
Braden, who accepted the donations on behalf of the families, spoke with members of VFW about the training aboard the Combat Center, how it benefits those deploying and how the money will help military families.
“You have an all-volunteer force who know what they’re doing over there and why they’re over there,” said Braden.
“We couldn’t do it without the awesome support we’ve been given from the community,” he added.
For the past five years, VFW and the auxiliaries raised money through a golf tournament.
“We have the joy of spending the money at this time of year for the families,” said Isabella Schieffer, Post 1508 cochairman for military assistance.
Marcy Driggers, women’s auxiliary president, wanted service members to know the VFW supports them and is open to all service members and their families for enrollment.
“We want service members to know there is a VFW in every city,” said Driggers. “Once they join one, they are a part of all of them. The wives can also join the auxiliary. I joined because of my father, who served in World War II, so children are also eligible to join.”
Kokas also wanted service members and their families to know the VFW is there in support of those who are deploying.
“For those going to March Air Force Base on their way to Iraq, the VFW will be there for them,” he said.
Those who attended the donation ceremony included Rusty Nelson, commander of post 1508; John Wolfe, senior vice commander of California; Anita Neu-Fultz, Armed Services YMCA executive director for the Combat Center and Sgt. Maj. Ricker, Combat Center sergeant major.
“Donations really help out,” said Sgt. Maj. Ricker. “It’s a grass roots appreciation of our military families. This will ensure some of these families will have a decent Christmas. Some of our military families are having a hard time this year, and this will help them out.”