President’s Message: Wishing Your Family a Joyful Holiday

President’s Message: Wishing Your Family a Joyful Holiday
Photo by James Partain/for MOAA

Servicemembers past and present have a special appreciation for spending the holiday season with their friends and families. After all, it’s a luxury we haven’t always been able to afford.


I wanted to share one of my own memorable holidays away. It was late 1997, and I was serving as special assistant to the then-Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, Gen. Wesley Clark. The general had detailed me to assist the U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Chris Hill, who was conducting shuttle diplomacy in the Balkans in an effort to divert war with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. 


Over Christmas 1997, and then into the New Year, I was in Belgrade developing an air defense architecture in concert with opposing forces of Yugoslavia. I recall calling my wife from Belgrade on Dec. 31 to wish my family a happy new year. In the background, my wife could hear what sounded like fireworks … she asked me if that was New Year’s reveille, she was hearing . “Nope,” I replied. “Those are gunshots coming from a crowd assembled on the Brankov Bridge displaying their aggression of a pending war with NATO.” The Kosovo War commenced Feb 28, 1998.


This is just one example of the separation brought about by service to this great nation. If you’re spending this holiday away from your family, or you’re on the home front with a loved one deployed, please accept MOAA’s deep gratitude and understanding of the personal sacrifices inherent with this service. Your willingness to put country above self, in this instance and countless others, is part of what keeps our all-volunteer force strong.


In the new year, MOAA will continue its work to support you– whether it’s fighting for earned benefits for those in uniform and their families, or ensuring those benefits retain their value in the decades after service.


MOAA’s two charities also serve as support systems for the wider uniformed services community. The MOAA Foundation assists those facing financial hardships via its new Crisis Relief Grant program, while the MOAA Scholarship Fund has helped the children of servicemembers cover ever-increasing college costs for 75 years. As you consider your end of year charitable giving this holiday, please keep these programs in mind.


And as you gather with loved ones this holiday season, please keep in mind those who won’t have the pleasure to be with their families and friends. Laura and I especially wish all these families a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season, and a heartfelt reunion.


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Donate to the MOAA Scholarship Fund and The MOAA Foundation at the link below.

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About the Author

Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret)
Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins, USAF (Ret)

Atkins served as the ninth president of MOAA, leaving office in January 2023.