‘Operation Ride Home’ works to bring the holiday spirit to military families

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The Armed Services YMCA of Alaska partners each year with Jack Daniels to help spread the holiday spirit to military families.

The two team up each year to run the program, “Operation Ride Home,” which helps relieve financial burdens for military personnel trying to get home to loved ones during the holidays.

“We know it is very expensive to fly when you have a couple of kids and a spouse and you’re looking at four to five tickets, especially around the holidays, we know that that’s difficult,” executive director for ASYMCA Sarah Riffer said.

The program is open to junior enlisted service members. Through donors and working with Delta Air Lines’ and Alaska Airlines’ mileage programs, military members receive a stipend that pays for most all traveling expenses, Riffer said.

Additionally, the program in Alaska allows families to travel outside of the holiday time period, according to Riffer, since not everyone is able to take leave during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year, the program was able to help between 120 and 130 junior members travel home at some point, helping to craft long-awaited reunions.

“A lot of times each year, we see grandparents that are able to meet grandchildren for the first time,” Riffer said. “We are able to see service members that may not have been home in two or three years after a pandemic be able to go home and enjoy their mom’s cookies for the first time in a long time.”

In order to register for the program, service members can register on the ASYMCA website under the “Operation Ride Home” tab. Registration kicks off Sept. 1 and runs through the end of the month. Riffer said those interested in donating to the program can do so on the website.

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