SANTA EMISSARIES TO EMMONAK
Today was our first 2006 National Guard Operation Santa Claus Mission. We flew in an Alaska Air National Guard C130 troop carrier from Anchorage about 500 miles west to the Yupik Eskimo village of Emmonak, near where the Yukon River flows into the Bering Sea. About 150 families reside in this bush village. The only access is by boat or air. Amazingly, there's snow in my yard in Anchorage, but none in Emmonak - just plenty of mud. There's also a zillion "4 wheelers" that transport folks around the village.
Santa and Mrs. Claus came into the school gym to help us give out gifts of food, candy, books, basketballs (the kids loved the basketballs!), and clothing - while a contingent of the Air Force Band of the Pacific played Christmas music. It was heartwarming to see the teenagers crowding around the military people to get them to autograph the basketballs. It's an honor to participate in Operation Santa Claus. How wonderful that these youth look up the military as heroes – because they are! Senator Kerry could learn a lesson from the kids of Emmonak.