SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The holidays are known to many as a time of joy and giving back to others.
That is exactly what two Airmen in the 82nd Medical Support Squadron are doing this holiday season. Airman 1st Class Hailey Salyer, patient travel technician, and Airman 1st Class Jaden Hines, medical records technician were looking for a way to spread holiday cheer in the community, which led Salyer to devise a plan to do just that.
Prior to enlistment, Salyer worked in several different retirement facilities in Ohio as a certified nurse’s assistant while completing her clinical at Fairfield Career Center, Columbus State Community College and Ohio State University.
“Many individuals in these facilities are forgotten about,” she said. “People get in the daily routine of life and their loved ones in care centers tend to lose their importance. I like to devote my time during the holiday season to making them feel seen.”
She said residents are always appreciative when they receive visits, treats or cards. With this perspective, Salyer and Hines decided they would call local retirement homes and assisted living facilities to find out if anyone was interested in receiving a holiday card and a visit on Christmas Day.
They said many of the facilities they called were ecstatic at this sweet holiday opportunity. The Airmen met their original goal of 300 cards and visits and extended their offer to also include facilities in Lawton, Oklahoma. The cards were store-bought and handmade, and all were signed by an individual within the 82nd Medical Group as well as family members and personal civilian friends of hers. They quickly surpassed their goal and delivered 700 cards and visits both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to facilities in Wichita Falls and Lawton.
With so much interest in the project, Salyer sought out volunteers to assist in making things happen. Over 30 volunteers helped with writing and signing the cards, and four others volunteered to hand out cards and visit with residents.
While Salyer was glad things were such a success, she said the project itself means more than it may seem.
“The way the residents feel goes hand-in-hand with what permanent party Airmen can feel sometimes,” she said. “We’re forgotten about at bases like Sheppard where Airmen in Training are the main focus. It’s almost symbolic to what Hines and I, and maybe several others, are going through being in the military.”
Salyer hopes to continue to make a difference in the military and surrounding communities during the holiday season and year-round.