Airmen sponsored home during season of surprises

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class William Rio Rosado
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Home, it’s where the heart is, where the smells of family dinners bring back memories, where meals taste better than anywhere else, and where some Airmen may not afford to go for the holidays. 

This holiday season, Master Sgt. Chance, 20th Attack Squadron operations superintendent, led the “Home for the Holidays” program which sponsored flights for about 20 Airmen to travel home. 

Chance began the groundwork back in September in conjunction with the Whiteman Air Force Base Chief’s Group and Base Community Council.  

“The main obstacle was, of course, COVID guidelines and restrictions,” Chance said. “Working with Airmen’s leadership to allow them to take leave and come right back into work was probably the hardest part of the program this year.” 

The Chief’s Group worked as the liaison with the Base Community Council to put together a fundraiser that sponsored the “Home for the Holidays” program. Chief Master Sgt. Gonzalo, 20th ATKS superintendent, selected Chance to be the project officer this year because of his exceptional work in the squadron. 

“We chose someone who could get the ball across the goal line,” Gonzalo said. “As soon as we gave Chance the intent, he ran with the ball.”

Chance, who typically attends to daily squadron operations, didn’t hesitate in providing a helping hand this holiday season. 

 “It was a great feeling to see all the smiles and emotions in the Airmen’s eyes,” said Chance. “And when we told them they’d been selected it was hard, even for us, to not get emotional.”

Airmen applied to be sponsored home by writing short essays telling their stories. Chance and Gonzalo both expressed their surprise when they learned some Airmen had not been home in over a year due to not being able to afford travel costs. 

Emotions were heartfelt during many of the notifications to the Airmen. Tears fell, joy swelled and wishes came true. 

“I want to spend these holidays with my family and make up for lost times,” an applicant said. “I want to bond with my baby, play and sing for her, no matter how limited the time is before I go away for at least another year.” 

While 2020 has proven to be a year of resilience, being home for the holidays could be just the thing Airmen need to push through to 2021 with motivation. Many Airmen come back from holiday leave refreshed and ready to go. 

“During the holidays you miss your family, your friends, and the home-cooked meals so homesickness is something that affects a lot of our young Airmen,” Gonzalo said. “It’s important when you’re a young Airman to rekindle that motivation which drove you in the first place.” 

Year after year, the holidays can be a tough time for many Airmen. Thanks to leaders in the 20th ATKS like Chance and Gonzalo, the “Home for the Holidays” program can send Airmen home to enjoy the smells of heartfelt meals and family company in a year where it’s needed the most.