The NAS JRB Fort Worth and the base’s fine men and women are among my top priorities as your Representative in Congress. I know this same respect for our city’s base and its servicemembers is shared in our community, where for decades we’ve been accustomed to the sights and sounds of its fighter aircraft training overhead. I recently met Kerre Ortegal and her husband Bob, the founders of “Holidays & Heroes,” an NAS JRB Fort Worth support group with a story all its own.
The holidays can be hard for military families, with many feeling struggle or separation on days that are supposed to make us feel togetherness. Six years ago, Kerre had an idea to make the holidays bright for base families struggling to afford Christmas. After asking base leadership for names of families facing hardship, Kerre and her friends delivered presents to 38 families of junior Navy and Marine servicemen. Kerre’s idea only grew: the next year, 43 families received assistance, followed by 53 families the year after that. As the number of families grew, so did the number of friends, neighbors, and volunteers who wanted to help, and Holidays & Heroes was born.
Holidays & Heroes embodies how our community comes together for the common good—and how in Texas 12, the sacrifices of military families never go unseen. Even Lockheed Martin firefighters lend a mighty hand, rolling up their sleeves each year to transport gifts from Kerre and Bob’s house onto the base. Last year, nearly 150 volunteers helped make the 5th Annual Holidays & Heroes event a success, serving 75 base families, a number that includes 150 children. For the first time, a big Christmas party was held on the base, transforming the hangar with music, games, and pictures with Santa Claus. Amid the festivities, the Holidays & Heroes volunteers and military members met each other, giving volunteers the chance to personally thank the families for their service and sacrifice.
This spring, Holidays & Heroes officially gained nonprofit status, helping ensure the organization could meet the challenges of this year—and carry on long into the future. While the needs of some base families were greater than ever this year, so was the determination of volunteers to help each family have a merry Christmas. Volunteer Susan Nix even made one of her last acts of kindness ensuring that the military families she sponsored were taken care of, coordinating with Holidays & Heroes from her ICU bed before sadly passing away of COVID-19. While this year’s gift giveaway looked different, it was still very special, as Susan’s memory and the spirit of Christmas were felt throughout a “drive-by” event on the base, in which families picked up presents by car.
As some of us spend the holidays away from some loved ones for the first time this year, keep in mind the sacrifices of our military members and their families, and those who are all-too-familiar with feeling their absence. Our great military community takes care of its own, but we all get by with a little support from friends. I’m so glad that the families on the NAS JRB Fort Worth can count on its friends at organizations like Holidays & Heroes.