CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Four-year-old Angel Munoz sat on Santa’s lap and was too excited to tell him what he wanted for Christmas.
He smiled and stared at the jolly, bearded man dressed in red, until he snapped out of his daze and said, “I want video games for Christmas.”
More than 400 service members and their families shared in the holiday festivities, including Santa Claus and his elves during a Christmas party hosted by the I Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Headquarters Group family readiness office, Dec. 11.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with all the families and our friends,” said Junko Ueda, an administrative clerk with I MEF. “My kids loved that they were able to get their photo taken with Santa, and it was nice that all the kids received toys. I just enjoyed watching my kids smile and have fun.”
The event transformed the MHG Motor Transportation lot into Santa’s village and provided a variety of activities for children. Holiday go-ers also enjoyed a buffet-style meal and musical entertainment.
Volunteers from Words of Comfort, Hope and Promise, BAE Systems and Hope Worldwide volunteered their time to serve food.
“It’s the least we can do,” said Margaret Perez of Hope Worldwide. “We’re having lots of fun with the music, kids and all the food here. We really want to show our appreciation for the hard work and sacrifices of our men and women and their families.
The majority of I MEF and MHG is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Perez said it’s difficult for families of deployed Marines to spend the holidays without their loved ones, but hopefully they see they are not alone.
Each child who visited with Santa left with a toy donated by volunteering organizations. Grand prizes including TVs, video game systems, and gift cards were raffled off. The prizes were donated by the organization, Heroes Under God.
"This was one of our greatest events to date,” said Marcela Torres, the I MEF/ MHG deputy family readiness officer. “We had so much support from our community and we believe that as a group we were able to make the holiday season a little brighter for our deployed families. We are so blessed to have the community support and look forward to working with these organizations in the future during the homecoming of our Marines and sailors.”