After a Busy Year, California National Guard Members Celebrate the Holidays

STOCKTON -- As the California National Guard celebrated the holidays Sunday, they took the time to reflect on a busy year responding to tragedies and natural disasters.

Over 500 people were expected at the Christmas party, but some were still serving a tour of duty in Texas.

"Between the fires, Oroville Dam, search and rescues and all the flying we have to do for ourselves and for the state, we probably do about 90 plus days of duty a year," said Lt. Col. Daniel Anderson. "So, the whole one weekend a month, two weeks in the summer, it’s not there. So, the soldiers are gone from home, so we are doing all this to give back to the family and the kids, and the sacrifices they make when the soldiers are not home."

Veronica Pajares and her three daughters were still making those sacrifices as her husband remained stationed in Fort Hood for a year-long deployment. But missing the Christmas party because he was not around was not an option.

"For us, it’s very important because one of the things we try to feel more close," Pajares said. "Because the feeling is be together, no matter how far. So, it’s not his first deploy, it’s his second, and so we always try to keep him close, using all the technology and all the activities as possible."

Pajares said she has been leaning on friends she has made through the guard as she pushes through the holidays without her husband.

"I always try to keep a big smile and try to fill myself with a lot of energy so I can be the same person every day with my girls," she said. "For them, giving them much love and try to keep the traditions, family traditions. It is important because it is good for your spirit and everybody in the family."

As for her three daughters, a visit with Santa and a glance at presents brings plenty of Christmas cheer. All that is left is their Christmas wish.

"We love you daddy. Come home for Christmas," the girls said.

The Stockton Sunrise Rotary Club helped put together Sunday’s event, which they say is one of their biggest events of the year.