The lights are already shining and holiday music is playing everywhere. This is a time when family takes priority, when we yearn for the warmth of a home filled with our loved ones. But for many it’s a burdensome, sad and lonely time. This is especially true for many of the military families, who have loved ones serving far away from home.
I urge you to keep these families in your thoughts as we find ways to help them. As a community, we must help them cope with the pain that comes from being separated from their loved ones. Some are thinking about buying gifts for the holidays and many are having a hard time paying their monthly bills. Others are simply overwhelmed with sadness and despair because their loved ones will not be home for the holidays. That’s why it’s important we come together to extend a helping hand and embrace the needs of our military and their families in our midst.
Let’s consider the thousands of active duty servicemen and women, who are lucky enough to travel home for the holidays this year. One of the projects I’ve strongly supported is the Military Hospitality Lounge at Miami International Airport, located right off Central Terminal E, Level 2. It is operated by the non-profit organization Armed Forces Service Center, Inc. The center provides complimentary refreshments, computer, Internet and telephone services and a quiet area to relax for traveling military members and their families with a valid military ID. Thanks to the efforts of many organizations, companies and individuals who have given monetary and in-kind donations, this project is a reality. I’d also like to personally thank Keith Whitbeck for creating this military lounge and staying after the USO organization left many years ago. He has devoted his time and personal finances to make sure the lounge is comfortable and fully functional.
Those who wish to contribute to these efforts may find out more information at http://www.militaryloungemiami.com/. There are countless opportunities to do good during the holidays. If you feel you’d like to send a care package to a soldier serving in the Middle East, you may do so by contacting Central Command at http://www.centcom.mil/ or 813-827-5894. If you’d rather send a care package to someone in the Guantánamo base, you may do so by contacting Southern Command at http://www.southcom.mil/ or 305-437-1000.
Whether it’s preparing a care package for a loved one or someone you’ve never met, making your favorite dish and offering it to a family in need or reaching out to a veteran with a lending hand, let’s work together and make this a time of cheer for every member of our community.
Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade County commissioner and chairman, Military Affairs Board