BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (KSLA) — Many of us love to watch military homecoming videos, especially those surprising family members around the holidays. A unique program at Barksdale Air Force Base makes that possible for airmen stationed there.
Capt. Chip Shaw, an assistant staff judge advocate at the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale, chairs Operation Bright Holiday for the Company Grade Officers Council.
“CDOC is a really cool organization on base,” Shaw explained. “It’s made up of lieutenants and captains on the base to benefit airmen on the base and help us with different career moves and things of that nature. It’s a cool organization to build the community among the younger officers.
“Operation Bright Holiday has been around since 2008,” Shaw continued. “It started out as a partnership between the then-2d Bomb Wing Vice Commander Col. West Anderson and local community partners like the (Shreveport-Bossier) Military Affairs Council. They raised a few thousand dollars and sent around 12 airmen home their first year. After that, it has just grown.”
Shaw said this year they’ve been able to raise more than $30,000 and send around 80 airmen home.
“This program is unique to Barksdale in that the CDOC raises this money for the sole purpose of sending our first-term airmen home,” Shaw said. “The program is for first-term airmen. Typically enlisted ranks between airmen basic and senior airmen, so typically your college-aged airmen who this is likely their first Christmas alone who are lacking in their financial ability to go home. So it’s focused on single individuals who are living in the dorms who just want to go home and see mom and dad and their grandparents and other family members.”
This year, Shaw said, airmen from 30 states are getting to go home. But COVID-19 has created some challenges, including on their fundraising efforts.
“Some airmen are from California, so we are having to work around some COVID restrictions so they may not be going home exactly right now,” Shaw said.
“We have an airman and their family is in the Philippines. We are trying to find a way to send them home. But in the current COVID environment, there is DOD-level restriction to not allow leave travel to the Philippines right now. But as soon as that clears up, we are hoping to send that airman home.”
Shaw said many have also opted to drive instead of fly, but all are required to follow COVID-19 protocols.
Amid the challenges of this past year, he said, being able to tell the airmen they get to go home for the holidays is a gift within itself.
The program is funded through donations. If you are interested, you can reach out to 2BW.BarksdaleCGOCExec@us.af.mil for more information.