The Danelz family, from left to right, Liam, 2, Steven, 6, Jonas, 3, and Stephanie record a video message for the deployed Sgt. Richard Danelz at Travis Credit Union Tuesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Travis families send loved ones holiday cheer via video

By From page A3 | December 12, 2012

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE — Six-year-old Steven Danelz, dressed up as Superman, earnestly asked if he could strike a Superman pose for the holiday video greeting card he and his family were making for his father, deployed C-17 loadmaster Sgt. Richard Danelz.

“If you want,” replied Walter Laskas, manager of Operation Best Wishes, who was getting ready to film the video that would be sent to Richard Danelz.

“You can make like Superman and fly though the snow,” Laskas said, referring to the computer-generated image he would put behind the family while they wish their father Merry Christmas.

Steven, his mother Stephanie Danelz, and brothers, 3-year-old Jonas and 2-year-old Liam, came to the Travis Credit Union on base Tuesday morning to record holiday wishes as part of the credit union’s way to brighten the season for their military community members.

Stephanie Danelz already sent her husband 12 packages, one to be opened on each of the 12 days of Christmas.

“I heard about this through an email and I thought it would be kind of fun,” Stephanie Danelz said of Operation Best Wishes.

The Internet video greeting cards were put together by Laskas, who created Operation Best Wishes nine years ago to give families of deployed service members a way to brighten up their loved ones’ holiday times while serving far away from home.

Travis Air Force Base was the latest of a host of bases where he set up shop to film the families and send off the videos they put together. The Defense Credit Union Council is the primary sponsor of the program, Laskas said.

Even though the U.S. is winding down its presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, Laskas said that a lot of service members are still being deployed in that region, “and we can’t forget them during the holidays.”

At Travis, several families came in during the day to the Travis Credit Union office, where he set up his studio. More had videos done at the Deployed Spouses Dinner in the Delta Breeze Club that evening, where he expected to have three times the families take advantage of his service.

While systems such as Skype allow families to communicate with deployed loved ones, Laskas’ system gives them the opportunity to record a holiday greeting card of themselves over an animated background that ranges from snow falling in a forest to a shining star atop a Christmas tree.

“This allows them to communicate with loved ones they would not be able to see for the holidays otherwise,” Laskas said.

Once recorded, the deployed loved one can log into OperationBestWishes.com and use a provided password to access the holiday greeting card. The greeting card can also be forwarded to other relatives, Laskas said.

Families are allowed up to 10 minutes to record their greetings. Stephanie Danelz only needed about three minutes to send Richard Danelz the family’s love and to ask him to fly safe so he can return home to them.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson has worked for the Daily Republic longer than he cares to remember. A native of Oregon and a graduate of the University of Oregon, he pines for the motherland still. He covers Vacaville and Travis Air Force Base for the Daily Republic. He is an avid military history buff, wargamer and loves the great outdoors.

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