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Mission Spread Holiday Cheer

Airmen of the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard’s Aerospace Ground Equipment shop delivered holiday cheer to a deserving family this year.  Staff Sgt. Victor Hixson listens intently while the four children sing “God Bless the USA” to thank the Airmen for their service to the nation and their support this holiday season. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts)

Airmen of the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard’s Aerospace Ground Equipment shop delivered holiday cheer to a deserving family this year. Staff Sgt. Victor Hixson listens intently while the four children sing “God Bless the USA” to thank the Airmen for their service to the nation and their support this holiday season. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts)

Tech. Sgt. Louis Suarez a powered support equipment mechanic performs routine maintenance on a self-generating nitrogen cart. He other members of the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard’s Aerospace Ground Equipment shop delivered a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas gifts to a deserving family this year. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts)

Tech. Sgt. Louis Suarez a powered support equipment mechanic performs routine maintenance on a self-generating nitrogen cart. He other members of the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard’s Aerospace Ground Equipment shop delivered a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas gifts to a deserving family this year. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Airmen of the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard's Aerospace Ground Equipment shop embarked on a special mission to make the holidays a little brighter for a deserving family this year.

The maintenance shop responsible for all equipment on the ground that keeps the wing's F-16s in the air wanted to do something different this year to spread holiday cheer. They called the Salvation Army and got the name of a grandmother who recently adopted her four grandchildren after caring for them the past three years.

Staff Sgt. Pablo Casarez and Staff Sgt. Jordan Apalategui chose to accept the first task in this very important mission, deliver all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal ready for Grandma Debra's touch.

"When we delivered the food, she thanked us for our service and told us it was an amazing thing we were doing," said Casarez.

Being part of this task meant a lot to him as he recalls when his family fell on hard times and someone was there to make their season a little brighter.

"It felt good to be able to give back to this family in the same way," Casarez said.
The mission didn't end there.

The Airmen began to think about what they could do for the family this Christmas.  They bought a tree and shuffled through stores full of holiday shoppers to purchase gifts to adorn it.

Six members of the ground equipment shop filled two cars with brightly wrapped packages and drove 25 minutes to an eastside apartment complex.  Debra met them in the parking lot, a young child at her side.

When the group of Airmen entered the apartment they were met with a surprise.  In front of the aptly decorated Christmas tree stood the four children holding patriotic signs.

Right away the little ones broke out in song. They belted out the words to Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" while the service members listened shoulder to shoulder in the small living room. When the children were through and tears were shed, applause and cheers rang loudly.

The Airmen presented each child with a stack of gifts.

For Debra a gift card especially for her.  She gave each Airmen a hug and with tears in her eyes she told them thank you.

The thanks was not only for the gifts, but for serving the nation.

"This was a gift for us," said Tech. Sgt. Louis Suarez a powered support equipment mechanic.  Doing something special for this family boosted our morale and made us remember what the season is all about, he said.

Come Christmas morning, the Airmen's mission of making the day a little brighter for Debra and her grandchildren will be complete. The ground equipment shop will never forget what an impact this family made on their lives and already have plans to accept next year's assignment.