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Commentary: Veterans: True superheroes

Tech. Sgt. Herbert Briscoe of the 507th Maintenance Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., speaks with a resident’s sister Dec. 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. This year marked the19th year that the 507th Air Refueling Wing has participated in the annual Christmas party at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Tech. Sgt. Herbert Briscoe of the 507th Maintenance Squadron, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., speaks with a resident’s sister Dec. 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. This year marked the19th year that the 507th Air Refueling Wing has participated in the annual Christmas party at the center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Staff Sgt. Sarah Haggard of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., talks with Veteran Richard Guthrie, Dec. 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. Guthrie served more than 20 years in the Air Force, and in addition to multiple deployments, he logged more than 22,000 flight hours flying over Vietnam, Korea and Libya. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Staff Sgt. Sarah Haggard of the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., talks with Veteran Richard Guthrie, Dec. 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. Guthrie served more than 20 years in the Air Force, and in addition to multiple deployments, he logged more than 22,000 flight hours flying over Vietnam, Korea and Libya. (U.S. Air Force photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Twenty-five Reservists, family members and civilians from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., pose for a group photo with Veterans at the Angel Tree party Dec 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. Twenty Veterans had their wish lists filled by members of the 507th ARW. In addition to filling wish lists, members of the 507th ARW, the 1st Aviation Standards Flight and the 513th Air Control Group also contributed nearly $700 in donations to the Veteran’s Benefit Fund, which is used to pay for costs associated with field trips and other recreational activities. Courtesy photo/Kelly Davis

Twenty-five Reservists, family members and civilians from the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., pose for a group photo with Veterans at the Angel Tree party Dec 22, 2015, at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla. Twenty Veterans had their wish lists filled by members of the 507th ARW. In addition to filling wish lists, members of the 507th ARW, the 1st Aviation Standards Flight and the 513th Air Control Group also contributed nearly $700 in donations to the Veteran’s Benefit Fund, which is used to pay for costs associated with field trips and other recreational activities. Courtesy photo/Kelly Davis

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- I consider the approximately 300 Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars who live at the Norman Veterans Center in Norman, Okla., to be superheroes.

These men and women come from all walks of life, yet all served their country as a team. It's a special feeling to deliver gifts to the residents and to show them that others appreciate their service to our country.

I attend the annual Angel Tree Christmas party every year. This year, when we arrived at the front door, a Vet waited for us to enter just to visit with us. He is wheelchair-bound, and one of the few remaining WWII veterans. More than 71 years ago, he and his unit landed on Omaha Beach in France on D-Day.  He was two weeks away from turning 21, and he said his first thought was that he wouldn't live to see his birthday.

After fighting on the warm beaches in Normandy on his birthday, he spent Christmas of 1944 fighting in a blizzard at the Battle of the Bulge, and later was awarded the Purple Heart. I was honored to be able to listen to him recount his experiences.

Sometimes we feel like we have it rough, but talking with the Veterans helps put things in perspective. Many of these Veterans lived away from home for one or two years, rarely getting to communicate with family. Airmen of today have 24-hour dining facilities, television, and internet and recreation time while on deployment, tours that typically last no longer than six months.

The men and women who have served our great nation have made many sacrifices, and some have sacrificed all. It was a great privilege to attend the Angel Tree party. I feel blessed to receive the gift that money cannot buy; time spent visiting and listening to the experiences of the servicemen and women that came before us. 

This year marked the 19th year that the 507th Air Refueling Wing sponsored Veterans for the Angel Tree Christmas Party at the Norman Veterans Center. Twenty Veterans had their wish lists filled by generous members of the 507th ARW.  In addition to filling wish lists, members of the 507th ARW, the 1st Aviation Standards Flight and the 513th Air Control Group also contributed nearly $700 in donations to the Veteran's Benefit Fund, which is used to pay for costs associated with field trips and other recreational activities. Thank you to everyone who participated, and to the 25 people who attended the party.