Every year on Christmas Eve, Santa Claus makes his journey delivering gifts to all the good boys and girls around the world. He even has Rudolf’s bright red nose to help him when the weather is bad. But sometimes even Rudolf isn’t enough to help Santa get to the really hard-to-reach places. That’s when he calls on the Alaska National Guard for help!
The island town of Saint Michael, Alaska, is home to 400 people — mostly Yup’ik Eskimos and Russian descendants — and is so remote that it is actually closer to Russia than it is to Anchorage, the state’s largest city. So it’s no wonder that it would be hard for Santa or anyone else to get there.
But getting Santa to the people of Saint Michael is exactly what the National Guard did! In fact, this marks the 61st year that the Alaska National Guard has conducted its Operation Santa Claus, which brings Santa to two remote villages where otherwise children may never get the chance of meeting Santa in person, receive new toys, or even have real ice cream.
“It was an honor to step in for Rudolph and the other reindeer and fly these folks here in one of our rescue aircraft, still shiny and new,” said Lt. Col. Eric Budd, Operation Santa pilot and commander of the 211th Rescue Squadron.
Around 30 Soldier “elves” came with Santa and Mrs. Claus to Saint Michael on one of the brand new HC-130J Combat King II aircraft from the 211th Rescue Squadron on December 5. They brought wrapped gifts and backpacks for every child in the village, along with items for the adults as well.
According to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, the gifts included “snacks, stuffed animals, books, socks, toiletries, basketballs, footballs, and beautiful hand-knit hats made with love from a group of volunteers who live in Florida.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus accompanied the members of the Alaska National Guard into town where they delivered the gifts to the people and children of the village. Fresh fruit and ice cream sundaes were served as a special treat.
Each child in the village got to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
The outreach program by the Alaska National Guard was especially welcomed with their gifts of fresh fruit, which the village is unable to get otherwise due to the cold and cost of transportation. And despite the cold, the ice cream was also a welcomed treat that some villagers hadn’t had in years.
Deborah Vo, who was a volunteer elf at the event, was once visited by Santa in the small village of Saint Mary’s when she was a child in the late 1960s or early ’70s. That visit was thanks to Operation Santa Claus, and she was thrilled to be a part of the annual event to make a new set of children happy this Christmas.
“It’s like coming full circle,” she said. “I was once that little naughty village girl on the banks of the Andreafsky waiting for Santa Claus.”
Operation Santa Claus is another example of the amazing work done by the National Guard and other members of the military to help everyday citizens in need — even if that need is to see Santa Claus before Christmas!
Watch the full, amazing visit in the video below!Whizzco