With more than 400 airmen currently deployed around the globe, the family readiness unit of the Vermont Air National Guard is busy making sure relatives of service members who are gone for the holidays are not suffering in silence.
“It’s important that we stick together, that we lean on each other, network, and just be there for each other at these times,” said Tech. Sgt. Emily Santillo of the Vermont Air National Guard.
“Operation Phone Home” launched Wednesday morning, with Air Guard leadership and other members dialing families of deployed airmen to check up on them and ask if they need any help, especially at the holidays.
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Earlier this month, 300 Green Mountain Boys left Vermont to participate in missions the Guard described as air-to-ground combat against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
That followed another hundred personnel deploying for missions this fall.
Some deployed Airmen recorded holiday greetings through the Guard’s media services department.
“Just wanted to say happy holidays and Merry Christmas,” said one deploying service member who identified himself as Master Sgt. Provost.
“Merry Christmas to all my family all around Vermont,” said Tech Sgt. Josh Mitchell in another greeting the Guard recorded.
“Can’t wait to see to you guys soon,” Master Sgt. Eric Ingleston told his family in another message the Guard made available to media outlets. “Love you guys!”
While those Guard members and their colleagues are overseas, family readiness staff is in touch with their loved ones who are still here at home.
During “Operation Phone Home,” Guard members called relatives of deployed airmen to make sure families are handing the separation well, and asking if they need any help, especially this time of year.
“Over this past weekend, there was a furnace issue, and within 45 minutes, I had someone over the house to fix the problem,” said Mary Mahoney, the airmen and family program manager for the Vermont Air Guard.
Mahoney said the Guard’s deep connections in the community as well as members who have expertise, like that furnace repair professional, help make this kind of support possible.