There is a special place in Santa Claus’ heart for America’s military families. In fact, Santa took some time out from last-minute toy-making at the North Pole this week for a trip to spread holiday cheer at military facilities from coast to coast.
With the reindeer home at the North Pole resting, Santa and his elf climbed aboard a Beechcraft Premier IA Dec. 14 to visit veterans and their families at military bases and medical facilities from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif. They stopped at locations across the United States with gifts for wounded veterans and their children, going door-to-door in hospitals and visiting bases and rehabilitation centers. The charity Santa’s Traveling Workshop organized the trip, and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. provided the jet for the flight.
“Now, with more troops being sent to Afghanistan, it’s really important that we let our service men and women know how much we appreciate the sacrifice that they make for us,” Santa said on a fuel stop in Idaho. He said families often stay in the hospital room with a wounded warrior, and he can see their reaction as soon as he comes in the door. “Everyone kind of lights up when Santa walks into the room, which makes me feel wonderful.”
Santa’s elf, Dana Bowman—a retired Army sergeant first class—brought a message of inspiration to his fellow wounded warriors. Bowman, a pilot and AOPA member of 22 years, lost his legs in an accident during Golden Knights parachute training in Yuma, Ariz., in 1994 and reenlisted nine months later. He continues to parachute to this day, and invited veterans at medical facility warrior transition units to join him sometime.
“It’s a message of hope,” Bowman said. “Giving hope to the despondent, courage to the timid, and strength to the weak.”
Santa’s Traveling Workshop has brought presents and cheer to military families before, but this year the foundation’s chairman, Richard Rovsek, reached out to Hawker Beechcraft Corp. to help Santa reach more families on his trip. The company provided the Premier IA, which was filled with gifts donated by industry organizations, professional athletes, politicians, and others.
“Thanks to Hawker Beechcraft, we’ve been able to get around and make a lot more stops than we have been able to in previous years,” Santa said.
And at those stops, he has plenty of goodies for the good boys and girls of military families. They have passed out DVDs, autographed sports memorabilia, ball caps, cookies, candy, and toys. And each gift comes with a personal thank-you from Santa for the service of men and women of uniform.
“Some people have sports heroes. … Santa has his uniformed heroes,” he said.