Holidays and Heroes
Originally featured on 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs. Read a full version of their article here.
NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas --
Five years ago, an idea came to the minds of two individuals that would change the lives of military families in the local north Texas area. Bob Ortegel and his wife Kerre Randel Ortegel, who live close to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, would often see men and women in uniform throughout their community and thought it might be nice to do something for them during the holidays. They presented the idea of sponsoring military families to members of their neighborhood as well as to the Navy command master chief stationed here in 2015… and the first Military Family Christmas [now known as Holidays and Heroes] was born.
“These [military] families endure plenty of stress during the holidays,” Randel Ortegel said. “We found a way to show them they are not alone and there are a lot of people that truly care about their wellbeing.”
During the 5th Annual Holidays & Heroes event, 75 military families (150 children and 130 adults) were served by approximately 150 volunteers and sponsors. It was held for the first time on base at the VR-59 hangar, NAS Fort Worth JRB, Texas on Dec. 5, 2019. From gifts to family photos and bounce houses to arts and crafts, 'the force' was felt as all involved wanted to show support to these families for the holiday season.
“[The Air Force] had 14 families take part this year and each family could not believe the outpouring of support they received,” said Col. Mitch Hanson 301st Fighter Wing commander. “When I asked every family about their experience, they unanimously agreed that the surrounding community support in Fort Worth is unmatched. Thank you to everyone who supported [our military families].”
One U.S. Air Force mother shared her gratitude as well.
“The whole event was such a blessing… each year we scramble to make something happen for our kids,” she explained. “[We want to say] thank you for this event! [Our family has] decided to pay it forward for another family this year.”
Kerre Randel Ortegel is also a member of the 301st Fighter Wing Honorary Commanders Program as the honorary commander for the 301 FW Security Forces Squadron. This program allows the wing a unique opportunity to foster community friendships in several ways. During their two-year term, these honorary commanders experience a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at how the individual unit missions combine and allows them to meet the Reserve Citizen Airmen who make it happen.
“My husband and I never served in the military, but we decided to serve those who are serving [us],” said Randel Ortegel. “Our lives have been tremendously enriched through the people we have met and experiences we never dreamed possible… all because of Holidays & Heroes.”