Veteran gifted with holiday home enhancements
By MIGUEL LEGOAS | The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. | Published: November 30, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — With cords, lights, and ladders in hand, Kyle Flanagan's team got to work. Roofs needed hooking, trees needed wrapping, and wreaths needed lighting.
The crew of Christmas Decor of Augusta only had a few hours Friday to turn an Evans home into holiday artwork, but in the end, the work would be worth it to make a hero smile.
This was the mindset of the employees as they prepared to surprise retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Mario Calderon with a decorated house. Flanagan, the franchise owner, has been friends with Calderon's wife, Christina, for the past year, and contacted her about doing something special for him for the holiday.
"I said 'Hey, I know Mario put his 20 years in last year,' " Flanagan said. " 'I do a veteran's house every year, what do you guys think about letting us do it? We'd love to do it,' and she's was all about it."
Christmas Decor is a rental company that designs, installs, maintains and removes decorations, and the Calderon's surprise was part of its annual Decorated Family Program that launched in 2003. Each year, hundreds of military families are nominated for the special gift, with franchisees selecting one family and surprising the soldier with a free, fully decorating exterior.
Calderon became a highly-decorated soldier while serving in various leadership roles worldwide. Flanagan said he was truly inspired to make the house shine because he knew the family's story well.
"A lot of times we don't know the family at all, so this is actually kinda cool, to me, that this year it's somebody that I know, that I've known for a little while," Flanagan said. "It's nice to be able to see something go well with somebody you know and know that they really appreciate it."
Flanagan wouldn't be positive, though, until the family got home later that night. When the couple pulled up to the house at 5:45 p.m., Christina was laughing with joy in the passenger seat, and after rolling down his window, Calderon looked at Flanagan standing in front of his illuminated house and asked: "Am I at the right house?"
While the children ran from the cold into the house, Christina hugged Flanagan and thanked him for the job well done. Though he was beaming with delight, Calderon said over and over how speechless he was.
"It truly says a lot about the people in this community that really stand behind the veteran community in the Augusta area," Calderon said. "We're really appreciative of all the stuff they do for us."
Flanagan said he and his team are incredibly driven in being able to give back to people like Calderon.
"When I get that kind of reaction, like that true, true emotional reaction where I feel like we have made somebody's life a little bit happier, you have no idea," Flanagan said. "That's what keeps me going."
Christmas Decor of Augusta will be decorating for one more week. Anyone interested in nominating a military family for next year will find links and applications on the company's social media site in mid– to late-summer.
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