Operation E.L.F. brings military families together ahead of the holidays

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HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Many military families are facing hardships – both financially and emotionally – during the holiday season. Operation E.L.F., held Saturday in Hartford, brought the community together to support those who need it most.

Operation E.L.F. (Embracing Lonely Families) kicked-off this morning at the Governor William A. O’Neill Armory. The holiday party, filled with decorations, toys, and kids’ activities, was open to all military spouses and children. Santa was even on the scene, taking pictures with families.

Kasey Timberlake of Operation E.L.F. told WTNH that kids under ten-years-old will leave with a bag of gifts, while kids over that age will receive a gift card to pick out whatever they’d like.

Chaliza Diaz of Windsor attended the event with her newborn. She explained that her husband hasn’t even been able to meet their baby, as he’s currently in the National Guard, deployed overseas.

“He’s been with the National Guard for 11 years, so to have a deployment at this time is hard, there are a lot of challenges,” Diaz told WTNH. “Now we have a family. I was pregnant. A lot of families [have] to do things alone. So to have support at events, like this going on, really brings us together.”

The annual event was first created in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks to address the financial stresses of deployment throughout the year, while also helping ease hardship during the holiday season. Today, Operation E.L.F. celebrated its 20th year.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz was in attendance, as well as former Governor Jodi Rell, former Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Maj. Gen. Francis Evon, and former Adjutants General Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin and Maj. Gen. David Gay.

Bysiewicz noted in a press release that she looks forward to the tradition each year, “seeing the unsung heroes, the families of those deployed, met with love and support from their Connecticut National Guard committee.”

“This tradition has been going on for 20 years, and I am proud to continue its legacy and give back to the families and loved ones of those National Guard members working to keep our country and others safe all across the globe,” Bysiewicz said.

Currently, around 800 Connecticut Guardsmen are deployed around the world.

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