Holidays and Heroes
Updated: Jul 8
In 2015, Kerre Randel Ortegel and her husband, Bob Ortegel, were
inspired to help local military families with holiday assistance. These
families are stationed at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort
That year, with the help of family, friends & neighbors, Holidays &
Heroes was able to help 38 military families of junior enlisted (E1 – E6)
sailors and marines. To demonstrate how much Holidays & Heroes has
grown, 134 junior enlisted families from Marines, Navy, Air Force & Texas
Air National Guard received assistance in 2021. In total, since 2015, 512
families, which includes 877 adults and 1043 children (over 1900
individuals) have received Christmas gifts. This could not have
happened without “an army” of generous individuals who took it upon
themselves to go out and shop for these families, and then to show
hospitality to them at the military family Christmas party.
To connect with deserving families each year, service members are
recommended by the various unit commanders at the base. The
nominated families are given a wish list to fill out for each family
member. The wish lists are turned in to Holidays & Heroes, who then
finds individual sponsors that will shop for that family. The sponsors
bring their wrapped gifts to a “Gathering of the Gifts” event which is
held the night before the families are to receive their gifts. Each gift is
carefully labeled to make sure it gets to the right family, and then
distributed to the families at a “Military Family Christmas Party”, held
just for them. The family party is an opportunity for the families to
know that they are not alone since many of them are living far from
their own families and home. It is a memorable experience for
everyone, especially the children. Musical entertainment, games, lunch &
pictures with Santa Claus are included in the family party experience.
It is an incredible opportunity for the military families to connect with
the community. It is also a way for the community to be able to
personally thank the families for their sacrifice and service.
Highlights from the 2021 Military Family Party (which was held at the
Vintage Flying Museum at Meacham Airport) included an F18 Hornet
that the Navy flew in for static display. Fort Worth Police Department
flew in one of their helicopters and they also brought in a SWAT vehicle
for display. The All Veteran’s Group had Santa parachuted in for his
grand entrance to the party. Caliber Collision presented 2 refurbished
vehicles to 2 service members in need. 3 news media outlets (CBS 11,
Fox 4, and NBC 5) showed up to cover the event.
As grand as all of this is, it is important to remember that it is for the
deserving families who serve our armed forces. Many of them
experience hardships in one form or another. This year there was a
sailor who had just lost his wife of 20 years to covid; another sailor
whose infant daughter has been in a Houston hospital because she was
born with a heart defect which led to significant surgery; a young mom
whose 7-month-old daughter was about to have surgery for a cleft lip.
Many of these service members were facing deployments and would be
separated from their families but knowing that their family would be
able to enjoy Christmas brought them a sense of relief.
Not all of us have served in the military, so we might not understand
from personal experience the challenges that these young families face.
Holidays & Heroes provides an avenue to be able to serve those who
sacrifice so much.
Holidays & Heroes became an official 501c3 nonprofit in March 2020.
For more information, go to their website www.HolidaysAndHeroes.org
Follow them on social media www.facebook.com/holidaysandheroesfw