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Tech Sgt. Hope Hendershot cleans up the kitchen at the RAF Mildenhall dining facility while her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, tries to get her attention. Hendershot says she's happy to work Christmas to keep the airmen left on base well nourished.
Tech Sgt. Hope Hendershot cleans up the kitchen at the RAF Mildenhall dining facility while her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, tries to get her attention. Hendershot says she's happy to work Christmas to keep the airmen left on base well nourished. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)
Tech Sgt. Hope Hendershot cleans up the kitchen at the RAF Mildenhall dining facility while her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, tries to get her attention. Hendershot says she's happy to work Christmas to keep the airmen left on base well nourished.
Tech Sgt. Hope Hendershot cleans up the kitchen at the RAF Mildenhall dining facility while her 4-year-old daughter, Emily, tries to get her attention. Hendershot says she's happy to work Christmas to keep the airmen left on base well nourished. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)
Airman 1st Class Jose Rosario and Staff Sgt. Willie Walton work security duty Christmas Day at RAF Mildenhall.
Airman 1st Class Jose Rosario and Staff Sgt. Willie Walton work security duty Christmas Day at RAF Mildenhall. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL — Christmas is normally a day to spend with family, opening gifts and relaxing after weeks of shopping and parties.

But not everyone gets to take the day off. Police officers stand ready to protect, firefighters are poised to save lives and merchants serve those who must keep rolling away from home.

For those people, Christmas is just another day on the job.

Here on one of America’s largest Air Force installations in the United Kingdom, people who had to work took a pragmatic if not altruistic view of punching the clock on Christmas day.

“I volunteered to work,” said Patricia Christie, a British national who was tending the on-base gas station cash register. “It’s more for people who have children so they can be home with their children.”

Across base at the dining facility, which has been ranked best in the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command two years running, Tech. Sgt. Hope Hendershot, 33, of Berlin, Pa., took working on Christmas in stride — especially compared to some of her recent tours.

“I’m usually deployed so it is much better to be here,” she said.

Hendershot, who has served in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates in the last several years, is happy to be close to her daughter, 4-year-old Emily, rather than downrange.

“I work Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day,” she said as Emily scampered about the dining facility kitchen. “I get to be with her and that’s the most important thing for me.”

Camped out near the back gate, ensuring the base does not have any unauthorized entries, Airman 1st Class Jose Rosario, 20, of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Staff Sgt. Willie Walton, 29, of Chicago, said they understood being on the security forces meant making sacrifices such as working Christmas.

“Of course, anybody would rather be with their family,” Rosario said. “But it’s got to be done. We have to protect the base.”

Walton said he will keep his wife happy by trading working Christmas for getting New Year’s Day off.

“We plan to go to France and Rotterdam and spend some time together then,” he said.

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