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Letters to Santa

Posted 11/23/2009   Updated 11/23/2009 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Rachelle Coleman
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

11/23/2009 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- For nearly 60 years the men and women of the 354th Operations Support Squadron have been Santa's helpers -- receiving letters from children asking Santa for toys and other gifts for their good behavior.

The program was started by the 58th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron in 1954 when a group of men from the squadron decided to help answer letters that arrived at the post office addressed to Santa Claus.

"It's a great way to relive your childhood a little bit," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Bohlman, a 354th OSS weather forecaster who has been a part of Santa's Mailbag for four years. "You get a chance to answer children's wishes in a way; it's a great way to give back."

Santa's Mailbag has a worldwide outreach according to Sergeant Bohlman, "we've received letters from across the United States as well as Australia, Japan and England -usually a place near a military base."

The volunteers start processing letters in late November and will continue through Christmas. During peak of the season, weather flight members get together at least twice a week to hold letter stuffing parties after duty hours. They read thousands of letters and write responses to the children.

Volunteers in the weather flight sort and read the letters select an appropriate reply and mail the letters from Santa Claus with an official North Pole postmark. Each address is handwritten for a special touch.

"I like opening the letters and seeing how diverse kids are," said Staff Sgt. Dave Drainer, a weather forecaster for the 354th OSS and second year volunteer.

"I like giving kids a chance to believe in Santa. Believing in Santa was one of the best parts of my childhood," said Sergeant Drainer.

To ensure a reply before Christmas the flight must receive letters to Santa by mid-December. Children whose letters arrive too late will get a special "after Christmas" letter from Santa.

Children's letters to Santa can be sent to:
Santa's Mailbag
2827 Flightline Avenue Suite 100B
Eielson AFB, AK 99702

As donations drive this program %100, a self-addressed stamped envelope or donation made out to "Santa's Mailbag" help to defray the cost of postage and supplies.

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