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Norman Veterans, Reservists, Guardsmen enjoy Annual Christmas Party

A World War II vet thanks Senior Master Sgt. Gary Wagner, 507th Maintenance Squadron for the Christmas gifts during the Annual Norman Veterans Center Christmas Party Dec. 22.  Wagner and more than 25 other Reserve and Guard Airman spent the day with the vets to listing to stories, making jokes and celebrating the holiday. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

A World War II vet thanks Senior Master Sgt. Gary Wagner, 507th Maintenance Squadron for the Christmas gifts during the Annual Norman Veterans Center Christmas Party Dec. 22. Wagner and more than 25 other Reserve and Guard Airman spent the day with the vets to listing to stories, making jokes and celebrating the holiday. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Campbell, 137th Air Refueling Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, listens to a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center Dec. 22.  (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

Staff Sgt. Anthony Campbell, 137th Air Refueling Wing, Oklahoma Air National Guard, listens to a veteran at the Norman Veterans Center Dec. 22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

1st Lt Cristi Jordan, 507th Operations Group helps a resident of the Normans Veterans Center open a gift Dec. 22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

1st Lt. Cristi Jordan, 507th Operations Group helps a resident of the Normans Veterans Center open a gift Dec. 22. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Maj. Jon Quinlan)

A group of Reserve and Guard Airmen pose for a photo before the Annual Normans Veterans Center Christmas Party Dec. 22.  (Courtesy Photo)

A group of Reserve and Guard Airmen pose for a photo before the Annual Normans Veterans Center Christmas Party Dec. 22. (Courtesy Photo)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Through donation support the Reserve campus here rose over $1,500 and purchased hundreds of gifts for the Veterans living at the Norman Veterans Center then personally delivered those gifts at the veterans Christmas party Dec. 22.

This marks the 18th year of the "Angel Tree" program and the support is well received by vets and employees at the center. The VA coordinator spoke to the volunteers before the party thanking them for their service.

"Thank you all for your wonderful efforts to make our veteran's Christmas special," said Jeannene Wade, activities director at the center. "Tinker is truly a friend to our veterans and we appreciate all of you so very much."

Local volunteers were joined by more than 25 Guard and Reserve Airmen to help open the presents, hand out food, spend some time listening to stories and chatting with the residents.

"The vets were surprised at how many gifts they received.  They enjoyed all the love which really put a smile on their face," said volunteer Trina Walter, 507th Operations Group administrative assistant.  "One veteran said this was the best Christmas present he had ever gotten...the joy on his face was priceless."

This year there was a healthy mix of veteran reserve members and new unit members.  For some it was there first time to visit the Norman Vet center residents.
  
"A veteran was telling me that he is so happy to see young people taking up the mantle to serve our country," said first time volunteer, Senior Airman Atueayu Wilson, 507th Force Support Squadron. "With so much going on in the world today, it's nice to feel something positive for once...but he hates our uniforms." 

Jokes from the veterans and the service members were flowing during the event.  Military service rivalries and OSU/OU rivalries were alive and well during the visit.  One Army Veteran and staunch Oklahoma University fan had to defend his OU comforter gift from a barrage of jokes from a fellow vet and OSU fan. Army/Air Force jokes were abundant as some of the veterans enjoyed the opportunity to have some fun.     
 
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.