Giving and receiving toys and food for area veterans’ families are from left Kayla Graham, Dileep Anne, Jason Dominguez, Twila Martinez, Chris Martinez Jr., Chris Flores, Matt Carrigan, Joe Chavez, Pat Cooper, Chris Martinez, Jim Frye, Ben Mestas, Ed Knecht, Braden Hicks, Chuck Cooper, Chandler Knop, Sam Sizemore and Joshua Falgoust.
Courier photo by Ruth Heide
ALAMOSA — Santa had wings on Sunday.
Flying in with no reindeer but lots of toys, Santa brought an early Christmas for San Luis Valley military veterans and their families.
Santa had a bit of help from Colorado pilots and a lot of help from generous folks throughout the state.
For the second year in Colorado and the first year in the San Luis Valley, The Colorado Aviation Business Association collected and distributed toys and food items for veterans’ families in partnership with the Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Aviation Department Flight Team.
Five pilots flew in holiday cargo in separate planes to the SLV Regional Airport-Bergman Field in Alamosa on Sunday. Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) members picked up the toys and food and will be making them available to veterans’ families later this month.
“It is my intention to distribute it throughout the San Luis Valley,” said Alamosa VFW Post 899 Commander Chris Martinez who coordinated the event.
“There are a lot of veterans’ families in need, but they won’t tell you,” said Marine Corps League Commander and VFW President Pat Cooper, “but their wives will come.”
“We are really happy to do it,” said Braden Hicks, who helped deliver the toys and food on Sunday afternoon. “It’s a lot of fun. We enjoy it.”
“You made a good Christmas for a lot of veterans and their families,” Cooper told the Denver-area pilots. “You are making a lot of people happy.”
Pilots and friends who made the trip to Alamosa on Sunday were Kayla Graham, Matt Carrigan, Brittany Podolak, Dileep Anne, Sam Sizemore, Braden Hicks, Ryan Gibbs, Chandler Knop and Joshua Falgoust.
In addition to Martinez and Cooper, veterans on hand to welcome and receive the deliveries were Post Judge Advocate Ben Mestas, VFW Post 4849 Member Chris Flores, VFW 4849 Post Commander Joe Chavez, District 9 Commander Chuck Cooper, VFW District 7 Commander Post 4849 Ed Knecht as well as Jim Frye, Chris Martinez Jr., Twila Martinez and Jason Dominguez.
While Alamosa received deliveries for area veterans and their families, pilots were delivering toys and food to other Colorado cities on Sunday including Montrose, Trinidad and Burlington.
Locations were selected based on regional VFW office needs and the ability to provide air service with timely deliveries in advance of the holiday.
In 2011 the first VFW Charity Airlift distributed 1,500 pounds of food and toys for veterans.
Co-chair for the 2012 event Scott Dulaney said the goal this year was to double that amount “and grow the operation to be even more effective for the veterans of Colorado. They are truly the inspiration for us all.”
Founded in 1994, the Colorado Aviation Business Association’s mission is to foster and promote aviation and related business throughout Colorado; address and respond to issues impacting Colorado Airports, including safety and operational effectiveness; educate the general public about all aviation activities in the state, and preserve the state’s airport related businesses as valuable economic assets to the community at large.
CABA and the MSU Denver Precision Flight Team have many personal connections to the military and both organizations believe the VFW Charity Airlift aligns well with their civic and industry goals. Collection efforts for the VFW Charity Airlift began in October with donation boxes placed in various airport and business locations throughout the state. Flight team members donated their time and money for aircraft rentals for the delivery.
Activities such as the VFW Charity Airlift is one of several reasons MSU Denver’s Precision Flight Team was awarded the 2011 Loening Trophy, the oldest and most prestigious collegiate aviation award given to the top collegiate aviation program in the country. MSU Denver has the fifth-largest collegiate aviation program in the country.