The holidays are a time for tradition, family, and giving. Just in time for Christmas, Electronics Technician 1st Class Ryan Perry embraces all three of those things to help Sailors in need.
Perry, originally from Goose Creek, South Carolina, now serving as ground electronics leading petty officer on board Naval Air Station Oceana, has taken the reigns as a coordinator of the command’s Holiday Assistance Program and uses an “Angel Tree” as a way to help those around him.
Through a partnership with the Oceana Navy Exchange (NEX), the Angel Tree allows NEX shoppers to purchase gifts for Sailors’ children, if their parent has entered into the Angel Tree program. Sailors qualify for this program if they are financially struggling due to an endless number of potential circumstances.
Perry’s responsibility involves finding the Sailors who need help and enrolling them into the program.
“Some of our Sailors come in to the Navy with their families already established,” said Perry. “Some of our Sailors come in to the Navy with no family, and the Navy becomes their family. Some people join the Navy as an ‘out’ to whatever situation they were in prior to the Navy. Their situations are not important to me; what’s important is that a Sailor needs help.”
Perry said helping those around you is an important part of the holidays.
“It makes me feel better knowing that we are able to help Sailors and put them in a better situation moving forward,” said Perry.
Perry said he’s not the only one helping those in need, as the NAS Oceana Chapel, their congregation, and NEX patrons are a large part of the Angel Tree program.
When NEX shoppers want to help a Sailor, they select an “angel” from the tree, which provides the age and gender of the children, keeping everyone in the transaction anonymous. They then purchase gifts in accordance with the information on the angel, and turn them in to their cashier. The gifts are then passed to Perry, who delivers the gifts to the Sailor in need.
Applications for the Angel Tree program have ended for 2019, however, Perry said Sailors who need assistance during the 2020 holiday season should ask their chain of command for information on how they could be included.
Overall, Perry said the goal of the program is to make the children happy.
“This entire program is to ensure the children are getting what they need for Christmas: food and presents,” said Perry. “We’re also making sure their parents stay financially stable.”
Perry said the Angel Tree program has allowed people to purchase gifts for approximately 120 children this year. Furthermore, the entire Holiday Assistance Program helped purchase 280 commissary gift cards for Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, assuring everyone has a happy and memorable holiday season.