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 493rd EFS Airmen volunteers bring 200 Christmas presents to Lithuanian orphanage
493rd EFS brings Christmas cheer, presents to Lithuanian orphanage
SIAULIAI, Lithuania – 2nd Lt. Tyler Stubbs, 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Officer-in-Charge of Communications, hands a toy to a young girl at Kusenai Orphanage Dec. 25. More than 20 Airmen from the 493rd EFS came bearing approximately 200 gifts for the children to open on Christmas Day. Lieutenant Stubbs is deployed from the 1st Combat Communications Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Lauren Stubbs)
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493rd EFS brings Christmas cheer, presents to Lithuanian orphanage

Posted 12/30/2010   Updated 12/30/2010 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Stephen Linch
48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

12/30/2010 - SIAULIAI, Lithuania  -- For many people around the world, December 25 is a day for spending time with friends and relatives, perhaps eating a Christmas dinner and opening presents.

However, for children at Siauliai City Baby's Orphanage in Siauliai, Lithuania, there were not many presents to be opened Christmas morning. That is, until volunteers from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron showed up.

Armed with approximately 200 presents donated by families from the 493rd Fighter Squadron and the 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, 22
Airmen from the 493rd EFS set out to bring gifts and smiles to all the children at the Siauliai City Baby's Orphanage on Christmas morning.

It was not long after they pulled into the orphanage's driveway and started unloading the presents that the children started to take note of what was going on.

"We had the vehicle parked out front of the building, and looking up into the second-story windows, we could see roughly a dozen three- and four-year-olds pushing their faces up against the glass," said Capt. Bill Strohecker, a 493rd EFS pilot. "Needless to say, they had huge smiles on their faces and were waving their arms with excitement.

"They instantly knew why we were there," he added.

With the children's eyes upon them, the volunteers quickly finished unloading the presents and organized them by rooms. Then the volunteers bearing gifts entered the three classrooms where the children were waiting for them. With approval from their caretakers the ecstatic children made their way to the presents. Finally, it was time to open the gifts.

"You would have thought it was their first true Christmas, and in reality, it might have been," Captain Strohecker said. "It didn't matter what was under the wrapper, a toy computer with flashing lights and noises to simple books. They all made the children light up."

The volunteers spent the next two hours entertaining the young orphans with their new toys before saying goodbye.

"We finally took a few pictures and said our goodbyes, knowing that no matter how great it was to have that experience, it was all that more meaningful for the kids at the orphanage," Capt. Strohecker said.

"As guests to Lithuania, we were thrilled for the opportunity to give something back to the local community," he continued. "Hopefully our small gesture made an impact on the lives of the kids on Christmas Day."

The 493rd EFS assumed command of the NATO Baltic air policing mission from the Polish Air Force at Lithuania Air Force Air Base on September 1, 2010. The squadron, comprised of approximately 125 people, has been responsible for ensuring the air sovereignty of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia since assuming command.

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