Service families helped for holidays

Kobe Grijalva gawked at the heaping pile of Christmas presents. He picked up a couple, shook them and tried to guess what was inside the wrapping paper.

Given a choice between any toy under the tree or spending the holiday with his father, Michael Grijalva, Kobe, 8, said he would pick his father.

Army 1st Sgt. Michael Grijalva smiled. This year, Kobe won’t have to make that choice.

Michael Grijalva is a recruiter for the Army, and he is thankful he has never spent Christmas away from his four children.

Not all local military families are so fortunate.

The Grand Valley chapter of Blue Star Mothers tried to help those families especially Sunday at First Christian Church. The organization distributed presents to families with at least one member in the military, past or present.

Army Spc. Dallas Hanson wore a Santa Claus hat and camouflage to distribute presents.

Last year, Hanson, his girlfriend and his mother, Wendy Hoffman, opened presents via a Web cam rigged up on three computers. Hanson was in Baghdad, Iraq.

His mother got him a crossword puzzle book, a digital picture frame key chain and clothes.
It even snowed in Baghdad, though it melted by the end of the day, Hanson said.

This year, Hanson is opening presents with his mother.

TJ Wagner won’t be spending Christmas with her son, Army Spc. Troy Bunce, 21.

When asked whether she has braced for this week, she got tears in her eyes.

Bunce has been deployed in Afghanistan since July.

Wagner mailed her son a small Christmas tree with a string of 35 lights to keep a family tradition alive.

“We always put the Christmas tree up at Thanksgiving,” Wagner said. “I figured if he had a Christmas tree by Thanksgiving, he could put it up.”

Bunce, a Grand Junction High School graduate, set up his tree on Thanksgiving, Wagner said.

Hoffman is a member of Blue Star Mothers, an organization of women with sons and daughters who are or who have served in the armed forces.  Hoffman helped arrange the toy distribution along with Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree stores.

More than 1,000 toys were collected for distribution to children up to age 12.

The toy distribution was the first the Blue Star Mothers have held in Grand Junction. The distribution was from 2 to 4 p.m., but less than 10 families had come through the line at First Christian Church by 3:30 p.m.

Hoffman wasn’t sure why the turnout wasn’t better, but she said any military families still wanting unwrapped or wrapped presents in time for Christmas can call her at 242-3845 or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Before he and his family left Sunday, Michael Grijalva took some presents with him.

An Army recruiter since 1998, Grijalva said some military personnel may have been reluctant
to come pick up free presents Sunday because they don’t believe they deserve or need help from others.

The toy distribution wasn’t meant as a handout as much as a way to say thanks to people who served in the military, along with their families, Hoffman said.

Grijalva said he would have wanted his wife and children to feel comfortable accepting gifts if he was overseas.

“The biggest thing is to know your family is taken care of,” he said.


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