Airman 1st Class Sagelee Nichols was presented with a ‘boarding pass’ Monday morning (Dec. 18) as the winner of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport’s eighth annual “Operation Home for the Holidays” campaign.
The promotion, open to enlisted personnel in the region, was launched Nov. 1. One Service member is randomly selected to receive air travel to be used in December or January as part of the campaign.
“We couldn’t be happier that an Air Force member won it again and we’re actually sending an Airman home for the holidays who might not otherwise have had a chance to go home for the holidays, she leaves in a few days,” Airports Director Tracy Stage said.
Stage thanked Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel, the county’s liaison to the airport, for her longtime backing of the program and overall support of the Airports.
A beaming Nichols said she was grateful for the opportunity.
If it wasn’t for the Destin- Fort Walton Beach Airport, I would not have had a chance to go home for the holidays this year,” she said. ” I want to thank you all so much for your dedication and for your support.”
Nichols said her mother “Was beyond grateful” at the news.
She was so sad to hear that I wasn’t able to come home because of the prices and the fact that it was so soon,” Nichols said.
Stationed at Eglin since January 2023, Nichols hasn’t been home in a year. She said she was extremely excited to see her family gathered together for Christmas.
I’m looking forward to finally getting to see my shole family come together as one, and to be able to hear about the stories and the things they have achieved,” Nichols said when asked what it meant to be home for Christmas. “And to explain things that I’ve achieved over the past year too.
Ketchel said the campaign highlights the county’s deep gratitude and appreciation for service members.
Everyone wants to be home with their family at Christmas time,” she said. “Besides the fact that we celebrate the birth of Christ, we want to celebrate it with our family. We couldn’t be happier for A1C Nichols. Have a wonderful time with your family.”
Ketchel also noted that Nicols’ trip back home is the farthest trip awarded in the campaign’s history and summed up the campaign’s eighth year by thanking troops everywhere.
We cannot thank our military enough for the freedoms that they ensure in our nation,” she said. “God Bless.”
Jared Williams, Dec. 18 2023