OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea -- The holidays are a time for sharing, love and togetherness. Despite recent tensions, service members in South Korea wished to extend their hearts to Korean children living in orphanages.
On Dec. 22, more than 600 Osan Air Base service members and families came together through Operation Christmas Hope for the opportunity to spread holiday cheer to more than 2,000 Korean orphans.
In a day-long event, Osan AB service members and families visited 20 orphanages in the Pyeongtaek, Osan and Suwon areas. At each one, volunteers sang Christmas carols, gave gifts and interacted with children of all ages. Each child received a bag of American snacks and a holiday card, written in both English and Hangul, which included a $25 gift certificate to a nationwide department store so the children could buy necessities such as gloves or blankets.
Osan AB leaders, to include Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, the 7th Air Force commander, and Col. Patrick McKenzie, the 51st Fighter Wing commander, were also in attendance.
"I am incredibly honored and moved to serve alongside everyone who took the time to do this for these children," said Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Forman, 51st Fighter Wing chaplain. "This is a memory I know I will cherish forever."
During the visits, children laughed, played and held on to their American guests. They also honored the volunteers with songs and dances.
Two children from the Kyeong-Dong Children's Home presented the volunteers with a handmade card written in Hangul. One line read, "Thank you for keeping our country safe with your air planes."
"It's times like these when you forget about all your problems," said Senior Airman Katie Johnson, an American Forces Network-Osan radio broadcaster. "We are away from our families and there is tragedy all over the world, but none of that matters when you're face-to-face with the smile of a child. Knowing that I was a part of Team Osan bringing love and cheer to little ones who need it most makes my holiday brighter than anything else could."
The plans for Operation Christmas Hope, however, only truly came together in the past few weeks, explained Chaplain (Capt.) David Suh, 51st Fighter Wing chaplain. In only three weeks of fundraising and advertising, more than $51,000 was raised and more than 600 base members volunteered to participate.
"This has been such a wonderful experience," Johnson said. "The greatest gift I could have received this Christmas was the smiles they shared that warmed my heart."