JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WCTI) - Many military families face the reality of not having their loved ones home for Christmas, but one organization is trying to change that by covering travel expenses in the hopes of getting service members home to their families in time for the holidays this year.
"This is the last year my dad's gonna be in New York so the whole family wants to get down there with all the kids and everything and just kind of spent their last real Christmas in New York," Purple Heart recipient Victor Altamirano said.
Christmas in New York wouldn't be possible for Altamirano if it weren't for the Coastal NC Veterans Foundation and the Military Order of the Purple Heart covering all of his travel expenses.
"If I didn't get the help I'd probably would have stayed a little bit more local," Altamirano said. "You know, but having that extra money just to get out there and come back and even if it means having a little bit of extra to do something nice for the family, that's really what it's gonna be used for."
It's more than a check and a handshake -- it's camaraderie -- a reminder that service members don't go through challenges alone.
"The amount of love that I got from veterans that actually came to see me in the hospital and amount of other people and it was just insane to know that there's people out there that I don't even know that just knew I was hurt and just came to visit me so for people down here to see this," Altanirano said. "This means a lot for me."
Over the years, this program has donated total of $2 million so far to active duty Purple Heart recipients to get them home for the holidays. This is its tenth year covering travel expenses for service members.