New group plays Santa to deployed soldiers

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new organization is hoping to make Christmas a little brighter for soldiers overseas. War Beard started in October as a way to support the deployed men and women of the 122nd Fighter Wing.

“We’re a pretty tight military family. Her father was in the military, in the 122nd. I was also in the 122nd. We’ve both been deployed, and her family has a lot of understanding of what that takes and what families go through. So, we wanted to do our part,” co-founder of War Beard, Jason Kochenderfer, said.

Jason and his wife, Kaitlin, came up with name for the group because Jason is growing his beard out until the troops come back.

“We’re hoping that it does go bigger than Fort Wayne. It helps people who don’t have a connection to the troops to realize that there is a need for support. A lot of these men and women deployed might not have family back here who have the funding or the ability to send them care packages. We want them to know that we appreciate everything they’re doing over the holidays,” Kaitlin said.

The group collected supplies and money at St. Joseph Hessen Cassel Church Sunday afternoon. The Kochenderfers said they packed around 130 boxes in less than 30 minutes.

“I was lucky enough when I was deployed to not have a family or kids or anything like that. It’s very difficult. It gets very lonely, and it’s very boring sometimes. It’s really tough. You want to be around your loved ones, you want to share those holidays with them, so if this is what we can do, we’re going to do that,” Jason said.

It’ll cost around $2,500 to ship the care packages. Donations can be sent through the group’s GoFundMe page.

War Beard is planning other events including a 5K in the spring and a homecoming party.

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