D.C.-area military families honored at special holiday celebration

Nonprofit throws a special Christmas celebration for local military families (ABC7)

On Monday night, Christmas came early for close to 300 kids whose moms and dads are currently serving our country.

D.C.-based nonprofit Yellow Ribbons United teamed up with several former NFL players and former second lady Dr. Jill Biden to make the special holiday celebration possible for those military families.

“We’re very grateful for everything they’ve been able to do for us,” said Jessica Rudd. “My husband is a Marine and I used to be a Marine as well, so we’re a Marine family through and through.”

Rudd and her children were among the crowd of military families who took part in Monday’s festivities.

A ballroom inside the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City was transformed into a Winter Wonderland, complete with a cookie decorating station, a well-stocked toy room, and visits with Santa Claus.

“My favorite part is talking to Santa,” said Jessica’s six-year-old son, Isaac.

This is Yellow Ribbons United’s fifth annual Winter Wonderland Extravaganza for military kids and their families, though the nonprofit works year-round to strengthen the relationship between civilian and military children.

Organizers of Monday’s event recognize that the holiday season can be a difficult time for military kids who have a parent who is deployed or who has recently gone through a permanent change of station.

“It’s really challenging for military families to have a service member deployed, mainly because your normal routine really isn’t there anymore, and the kids are the ones who feel it the most,” said military spouse Cassaundra Martinez.

Former Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden, a proud military mom herself, took time to recognize the sacrifice military families make on behalf of their country.

“I want to say thank you to all the moms and dads and military families here,” Biden said. “Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for being so brave.”

Yellow Ribbons United was founded by former Redskin Derrick Dockery and his wife, Emma, who comes from a military family. Her father served in the military for 30 years, retiring as a Colonel in the United States Army.

“We just want to let you know that tonight is about you,” Dockery told the kids in the crowd. “You are our tiny heroes. We want to let you know you guys are extraordinary. And we thank you for coming out.”

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