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Reserve and Guard Airmen spread holiday cheer to disabled veterans

Airman Jadie Evans, an intelligence analyst for the 507th Operations Support Flight, listens to a story from a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman Oklahoma.  Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans.  Several members went to the center to help serve food, drinks and help open gifts during the annual Christmas party.  Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996.  (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

Airman Jadie Evans, an intelligence analyst for the 507th Operations Support Flight, listens to a story from a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman Oklahoma. Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans. Several members went to the center to help serve food, drinks and help open gifts during the annual Christmas party. Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996. (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

Col. Jeffrey Pickard, 507th Maintenance Group Commander offers a cup of hot chocolate to World War II veteran Albert Keim at the Norman Veterans Center recently.  Keim, who arrived in Normandy, France four days after D-Day, was one of many veterans on hand taking part in the annual Christmas Party.  Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans.  Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996.  (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

Col. Jeffrey Pickard, 507th Maintenance Group Commander offers a cup of hot chocolate to World War II veteran Albert Keim at the Norman Veterans Center recently. Keim, who arrived in Normandy, France four days after D-Day, was one of many veterans on hand taking part in the annual Christmas Party. Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans. Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996. (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

2nd Lt. Cristi Jordan, a 507th Operations Support Flight intelligence analyst helps Robert McCarthy, a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center, open a gift at the annual Christmas Party recently.  Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans.  Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996.  (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

2nd Lt. Cristi Jordan, a 507th Operations Support Flight intelligence analyst helps Robert McCarthy, a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center, open a gift at the annual Christmas Party recently. Over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans. Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996. (Photo by Senior Airman Mark Hybers)

Senior Master Sgt. Robert Gaspar of the 507th Operations Support Flight, trades stories with a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center's annual Christmas party recently.  Gaspar has been attending the Christmas party for several years.  This year over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans.  Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996.  (Photo by Capt. Jon Quinlan)

Senior Master Sgt. Robert Gaspar of the 507th Operations Support Flight, trades stories with a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center's annual Christmas party recently. Gaspar has been attending the Christmas party for several years. This year over $4,000 was raised by members of the 507th Air Refueling Wing for gifts to be donated to the veterans. Members of the 507th have been donating gifts since the center opened in 1996. (Photo by Capt. Jon Quinlan)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Reserve and Guard Airmen treated over 300 area disabled veterans to Christmas gifts, food and holiday cheer at the Norman Veterans Center Christmas party December 21.

The program, better known as Angel Tree, is run every year by members from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, 137th Air Refueling Wing and 513th Air Control Group supporting the veterans for Christmas. This year marks the 17th year in a row of veteran support.

This is one of the most important and memorable days of the year for the veterans according to Norman Veterans Center activities director, Glen Williams.

"The vets love the opportunity to share stories and interact with the servicemen," Williams said. "This party is huge and is the main source of gifts for our veterans in our facility; I know it brings a lot of smiles."

Through fund raising, the 507th, 137th, and 513th raised over $4,300 which bought the veterans over 300 gifts filling the Christmas wishes of all in the facility. Every kind of gift was purchased from hats and blankets to games and razors.

According to 507th Maintenance Squadron, coordinator Tech Sgt. Herbert Briscoe, the wing exceeded its goal.

"I want to thank all our 507th and 137th friends for giving to our Vet`s, as this will brighten up their Holiday Season."

Veterans at the Norman Vets Center were happy to see the Airmen and spent many hours sharing stories, wisdom and cake
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"They said we were going to have a party and I just thought well, it's a little party, but I was so surprised to see so many people here," Jessamine Shields, a World War II Navy nurse, said. "This is just marvelous."

Mrs. Shields was just one of the veterans who played a crucial role in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Stories during the party ranged from how to maintain the KC-135 in the 1970's to arriving at Pearl Harbor the day after the attack by the Japanese in 1941.

"I am always amazed by these veterans," said Senior Master Sgt. Bob Gaspar, of the 507th Operations Support Flight. "To me, there is not much more that says Christmas than doing this. It's the least we can do to support them for their service to our country."

The Veterans Administration operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 232 Veterans Centers. Since the first Vet Center opened, more than 2 million veterans have been helped. Every year, the Vet Centers serve more than 130,000 veterans and accommodate more than a million visits by veterans and family members.

The Norman Veterans Center opened in 1996. The 239,000 sq. foot facility has a 301 bed capacity to serve both male and female Oklahoma wartime veterans.