By Jennifer Thibault
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
It is often said when one joins the Air Force, they gain a family. And the Air Force makes it a goal to take care of its family. That mentality helped one Airman spend the holidays with his biological family.
Col. Edward Baron, 50th Mission Support Group commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Winfree, 50th MSG superintendent, surprised Airman Emmanuel Valenzuela, 50th Security Forces Squadron, with a free round trip ticket Dec. 18.
United Airlines donated two round trip tickets to Peterson Air Force Base officials who then gave one to Chief Master Sgt. Randy LaCombe, 50th Space Wing command chief.
In order to receive the ticket, the member had to be in the Air Force less than one year and to not be spending the holidays with family due to financial constraints.
“We had it narrowed down to two Airmen and the other had just returned from leave so Airman Valenzuela became the obvious choice,” said Master Sgt. Brian James, Charlie Flight chief.
Airman Valenzuela has been in the Air Force just 8 months and assigned here for just more than a month when the holidays rolled around.
“I was just going to hang out with my friends in the dorms,” said the fortunate Airman. “I really couldn’t afford to do much else.”
With ticket in hand however, his plans drastically changed. He started thinking about surprising his three brothers and sister and his many young cousins. The magic of the holidays seemed real.
Airman Valenzuela couldn’t surprise his folks though as they were contemplating travel during the holidays.
“I had to tell them so they would stay put,” he said. “It was great though. I was able to surprise my other relatives.”
The way service members celebrate the holidays tend to change after joining the service but for Airman Valenzuela it was for the better.
“Before I only thought about what I was going to get for Christmas but this time I was thinking of my little cousins and what I could do for them. It was really neat to be able to give them gifts in person,” he said.
The airline ticket not only changed the way Airman Valenzuela viewed his biological family but his Air Force family as well.
“Airman Valenzuela already had a positive outlook on the Air Force but this gift just enhanced it and improved his morale,” said Sergeant James. “It felt good to be able to do this for Airman Valenzuela and having senior leadership present it gives our Airmen another way to view our senior leaders vice the intimidation they typically feel.”