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NEWS | Dec. 19, 2023

Puerto Rico Guard Helps Give Toys to Children for Holidays

By Story by 2nd Lt. Eliezer Soto, 156th Wing

MUÑIZ AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Puerto Rico - The Puerto Rico Air National Guard is helping distribute toys to children across Puerto Rico during the holidays.

The 156th Wing received the C-130J Super Hercules "Fat Albert" aircraft assigned to the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, as part of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Airmen assigned to the 156th Wing provided logistical support for unloading 16 pallets of toys that will be distributed in partnership with Toys for Tots.

"Supporting this great initiative by the Blue Angels and the Marines Toys for Tots allows the Puerto Rico Air National Guard Airmen to collaborate in impacting our local communities by providing comfort and hope to children during this holiday season," said U.S. Air Force Col. Evaristo Orengo, the 156th Wing commander. "We are honored to be able to contribute to a 76-year national charitable program such as Toys for Tots through our Airmen's efforts and our flight line capabilities."

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Natalia Luchetti, the assistant maintenance officer with the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, and the first Puerto Rican female maintenance officer in Blue Angels history, was happy to return to her country for the program.

"I feel proud and honored to be here representing my country while bringing warmth and joy to children during the holidays with this
group," said Luchetti. "As a little girl living in Puerto Rico, I was impacted by the Toys for Tots program, so I am honored and privileged to be with this organization, giving back to other children what I received.”

In addition to providing logistical support, Airmen with the 156th Wing teamed with Marines assigned to Det. 1 Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 45, 4th Marine Logistics Group, and Toys for Tots to give out more than 180 toys at Dr. Julio J. Henna Elementary School.

"It is amazing having the Puerto Rico Air National Guard involved as volunteers in the foundations of Toys for Tots," said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Yadiel Burgos-Benitez, a Toys for Tots coordinator. "This event has a powerful impact in the community, and it also gives us a wholesome feeling by seeing the smiles on the children's faces as they receive their toys."

Maria Bernal-Zarzuela, a community leader who has worked as assistant coordinator for Toys for Tots for seven years, said the program has allowed her and other leaders to spread joy in their communities.

"Thanks to Toys for Tots we are able to be the face of happiness for children in our community during the holiday season," said Bernal-Zarzuela.



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