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Base Security Forces Squadron and Police Officer's Union extend Holiday Cheer to Family of Deployed Army Private

LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- Members of the 61st Security Forces Squadron (SFS) went out of their way to exemplify the meaning of camaraderie and the spirit of the holiday season when they delivered a Christmas tree to the family of a deployed soldier during the recent Wingman Day, Dec. 6. The wife and five children, ages 2 through 9, of Army Private Ratha Oeur currently deployed to Korea, received a 7-foot tree, complete with lights and ornaments, at their Lakewood home.

The tree was delivered and set up by Officer Scot Kowalski, a Department of Defense police officer attached to the SFS, and Ms. Lisa Ponce, SFS Reports and Analysis Section. Two of the children were home when they made their delivery. At first, they were shy and were hiding under the table until the tree was set up and the lights were turned on.

"They warmed up and they looked happy once the lights went on," said Officer Kowalski. "You could see that little glow, especially in the little 2-year-old."

In her e-mail to him, Mrs. Channa Oeur wrote in part, "... Thank you so much for setting up the Christmas tree. The kids love it so much. You have made our Christmas special this year ..."

"The wife really wanted a Christmas tree .... I was going to buy one myself," said Officer Kowalski. "We were talking to Big Lots (in Lakewood) and they ended up giving us the Christmas tree, the ornaments and everything. They even let us fill up a basket full of toys, free of charge."

They selected toys for the daughter Micah (9) and sons Elijah (7), Joshua (6), Jonathan (4) and Ethan (2).

The unit is familiar with doing toy drives for local hospitals and children's centers each year, but this year they wanted to do more and decided to support a military family as well. 

Ms. Ponce made this suggestion and with the help of the base's Airman & Family Readiness Center, they were provided the name of a family in need through an Army recruiter.

"We asked if anybody here on base needed support and family services said everybody was taken care of. But there was a recruiter that knew of a family," said Officer Kowalski. "An E-2 in the Army just got deployed to Korea and his wife and five kids were struggling. He couldn't make it back for the holidays because he didn't have the money."

With the cooperation between SFS and the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO), Local 548, which Officer Kowalski is the president of the police officer's union for the base, Ms. Ponce was able to begin her rounds to various businesses in the Lakewood area asking for donations.

"If it weren't for Lisa, we definitely couldn't have done this much," said Officer Kowalski. "She did all the legwork; she made it really easy. She wanted to do as much as she could for this family."

"Based upon my spiritual background, this is the season for giving and not receiving," said Ms. Ponce explaining why she cared so much. "It has given me a great pleasure to help out a family in need for the holidays."

The response they got back was tremendous. Various Lakewood businesses such as Big Lots, IHOP, Hometown Buffet, Albertson's, Chuck E. Cheese, Outback Steak House and Baron Center Inc. donated gifts and gift certificates.

"We received tons of donations," said Officer Kowalski. "We actually got a list of what the kids wanted and I think we pretty much fulfilled what was on it and then some."

Los Angeles AFB civilian police officers and SFS military personnel also donated many gifts.

"It was wonderful to be able to spread joy to another family who wouldn't have had anything for Christmas," said Officer Kowalski. "It's a good feeling especially when they send back e-mails saying the kids are so happy. That's what this is all about - to make those kids happy; make a family happy."

"Taking care of Airmen is one of the Air Force priorities," said Maj. Allan Sacdalan, 61st Security Forces Squadron commander. "I praise the efforts of Scot and Lisa who reached out to extend our Air Force family values to a sister service family, like the Oeur's, and brighten the holidays for a family of a deployed soldier. Channa may not have her husband in time of need; however, we - IBPO and 61 SFS - will be her Wingmen until he returns."

(Currently, 61 SFS is doing a toy drive for the Loma Linda University Children's Hospital where there are many cancer patients. They will be delivering the gifts Dec. 20.  In addition, they have collected toys for another needy military family.)