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Tuesday December 7, 2010 2:59 PM

Season Of Giving


Rockets host Holiday Party For Wounded Warriors

Julie Tran
Special to Rockets.com

HOUSTON - As the days approach the merrier side of 2010, it’s easy to get caught up with festivities such as the implicit race to see which home can sustain the most ridiculous amount of light without disrupting our circadian rhythm. And though the Galleria during the holidays is the closest most of us will come to a warzone, survival amid real life combat situations is all in a day’s work for many of our loved ones overseas. Frankly, without these men and women serving our country, the congested trip to the Galleria and the blinding decorative lights wouldn’t even be feasible.

Monday evening the Houston Rockets hosted their “Holiday Party for Wounded Warriors” for 14 families of retired veterans, as well as soldiers discharged due to medical situations during combat. Often times fans attending any special event hosted by the Rockets are considered the lucky ones. On this night, however, players like Luis Scola, Yao Ming, Jared Jeffries, Aaron Brooks, and Kevin Martin were the lucky ones in the presence of these heroes.

Spaghetti and meatballs were served to the families a la Scola, Yao, Jeffries, Brooks, and Martin. The children’s eyes lit up as they sat on the lap of the Far East version of Kris Kringle. When Yao was asked if all of this meant more to him now that he has one of his own, he didn’t have to say a thing – his answer could be heard in his laughter at the sight of a child running into the moonwalk.

Despite the commotion of the raffle ticket giveaway of gift cards, autographed memorabilia, face painting, the moonwalk, and the caricature booth, I actually had the pleasure to speak with Senior Master Sergeant, John “Spike” Garcia. He nonchalantly listed his unbelievable achievements and shared many of his stories as an Active Duty officer, as well as his civilian experiences.

“Spike” mentioned that a lot of discharged and retired military veterans have a difficult time with funds for their families during the holidays, and this Rockets sponsored event provides a measure of relief.

“The personal interaction of the players with the families means a lot because the players don’t just hand off the food,” he said. “They serve the families and sit with them.”

The children on hand received gifts personalized with their names which were custom selected for each child’s age-group. Amazing how little details like this can add so much of the extra holiday joy that the veterans wanted for their children.

So as you search on eBay or CraigsList in hopes of the perfect gift this season, take some advice from the selfless men and women serving our country and remind yourself that the best gift isn’t always attached with a price tag.

From the Houston Rockets to those who served us past and present, we salute you, and our prayers, thoughts and appreciation go out to you and your families.

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