Soldiers come home for the holidays - thanks to you

Soldiers come home for the holidays - thanks to you »Play Video
Volunteers field phone calls during the Operation Holiday Airlift telethon Thursday. KATU's viewers raised enough money to bring Oregon soldiers, who are stranded in Wisconsin, home for the holidays.

PORTLAND, Ore. - KATU-Family Matters’ Operation Holiday Airlift was a success Thursday thanks to KATU viewers. A total of $61,000 was raised to help Northwest soldiers fly home for the holidays.

A hundred Oregon families found out at the last minute their soldier in the National Guard could come home for the holidays, but because the Guard did not have enough resources to pay for the trips, Guard families were going to have to foot the bill themselves.

But thanks to KATU viewers and the community, they don’t have to.

KATU’s Anna Song, who broke the story last week, was able to break the good news to one of those families in Dundee, Ore.

“That is so cool,” said Kathy Harris, a friend of a family who has two members in the Guard. “I am thrilled. It’s awesome,” she said after she and the soldiers’ siblings were told the goal had been met.

For the two brothers, who found out at the last minute they could come home for the holidays before being sent to Afghanistan for a year to clear roadside bombs, the plane tickets just weren’t in the budget.

Dan and Josh Chandler joined the Oregon National Guard together and were planning to rent a hotel room in Wisconsin over Christmas.

The base they’re training at is shutting down during the holidays, and they were too polite to ask their family to pay for their flights home.

“They would not have asked,” said Harris. “They’re very humble, very sweet kids, and Danny wouldn’t come home without Josh and Josh wouldn’t come home without Danny. There would be no way they would leave each other.”

“When it comes to our family, we’re so close together,” said Cheri Chandler, the soldiers’ sister. “We’ve never spent Christmas apart. This would be a first.”

The brothers also have a new nephew, Markus, they haven’t seen. He was born premature just four days after they left.

But KATU viewers came to the rescue. Over five and a half hours Thursday morning, with some soldiers’ wives taking donation calls, viewers raised tens of thousands of dollars.

KATU thanks everyone who donated. The extra funds that were raised will send 35 injured Oregon veterans to the Paralympic games in Vancouver, B.C.

Those who want to help the Washington National Guard soldiers, who are in the same situation as the Oregon troops, can do so through the Oregon War Veterans Association. It is collecting funds for them, too.