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Christmas in… June? Altus AFB hosts a free pool party for deployed families

A summer themed Christmas tree stands as decoration for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

A summer themed Christmas tree stands as decoration for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Hearts Apart was held to give time back to deployed members with their families. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson N. Haddon)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Every year, U.S. military service members deploy around the world to aid in operations designed to keep our country safe. It takes courage, sacrifice and dedication to serve in the Armed Services. Perhaps no one understands that more than their families. Families stay back to keep the household running smoothly so their service member can focus on the mission. Early childhood years, holidays and special events are often missed so it makes the time spent together precious and the memories made upon return more special.

 

Altus AFB hosted an event to give time back to families who had members deployed or are deploying and might miss the holidays this year. The Christmas You Missed pool party was held at the Freedom Community Center on base from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 22, 2018.

 

There were gifts, competitions and prizes for families. Families gathered at the pool behind the FCC, where they were treated with games, food and a chance to swim together. A special guest also made an appearance and joined in on the fun.

Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King portrays Santa Clause for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King portrays Santa Clause for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Hearts Apart was held to give time back to deployed members with their families. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson N. Haddon)
Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King portrays Santa Clause for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
Christmas in… June? Altus AFB hosts a free pool party for deployed families
Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King portrays Santa Clause for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Hearts Apart was held to give time back to deployed members with their families. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson N. Haddon)

We brought Santa Clause in from downtown along with a bunch of gifts sponsored from the United Services Organization,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Christie Kidder, NCO in charge of Airmen and Family Readiness Center. “Our thoughts were to do family gifts {gifts that the family can do together} so they can build upon that relationship before they leave or as they just came back. The idea is to make up for lost time due to deployments.

 

U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Whisenhunt Jr., a flight chief assigned to the 97th Operations Support Squadron, knows the value of making up for lost time with family.

 

“At six years old, my daughter could understand a little better why daddy had to leave, but my four year old just understood that, ‘Daddy is just gone’,” said Whisenhunt. “Every day, he would come home and ask, ‘Is daddy coming back today?’ That started at the beginning and went pretty much all the way through the time I was gone.”

 

The mission comes first in an Airman’s career, but that doesn’t change the fact that missing events at home can be difficult.

R.L. Whisenhunt, son of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Whisenhunt Jr., a flight chief assigned to the 97th Operations Support Squadron, hold up four fingers to show his age to Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King, who portrays Santa Clause at the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
Christmas in… June? Altus AFB hosts a free pool party for deployed families
R.L. Whisenhunt, son of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Robert Whisenhunt Jr., a flight chief assigned to the 97th Operations Support Squadron, hold up four fingers to show his age to Ret. U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. John King, who portrays Santa Clause at the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Hearts Apart was held to give time back to deployed members with their families. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson N. Haddon)

“I’ve been deployed twice now and both times I’ve missed Thanksgiving, Christmas, my birthday, my wife’s birthday and our anniversary,” said Whisenhunt. “The first time I deployed, we didn’t have an event like this, so we had to make do with what we could, but it’s really special to have the unit say, ‘Hey, we appreciate what you went out and did, and we appreciate your families as well; we’re going to give back to you in some way we can.’ Obviously, they can’t give us that time back, but they can make our families feel appreciated and special.”

 

Time together can mean a lot to a family, especially during the rush of pre- or post-deployment.

 

“I know when I was deployed, you want to make up all that lost time with your family,” said Kidder.  “When you’re going and returning, the stress levels can be so high that you forget to take that time. When you get the chance to take time to enjoy the company of others, it’s worth it.”

 

As the base continues to provide well-trained and mission-dedicated Airmen, the A&FRC will continue to bring families together. 

Jett (left) and Nova (right) Smith, children of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Smith, a military training leader assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, sit on Santa’s lap for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.
Christmas in… June? Altus AFB hosts a free pool party for deployed families
Jett (left) and Nova (right) Smith, children of U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Smith, a military training leader assigned to the 97th Training Squadron, sit on Santa’s lap for the Hearts Apart Christmas event, June 22, 2018, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. Hearts Apart was held to give time back to deployed members with their families. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Jackson N. Haddon)