Santa Claus leaned over to extend best wishes to an elderly bedridden veteran in the hospice ward of the Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Washington, D.C. When the red-suited, white-bearded gentleman asked what the soldier wanted for Christmas, he smiled and replied, “Nothing for me—just pray for my fellow veterans here and for those who died so many years ago today.”
The date, December 7, 2019, was not only the 21st anniversary of the Diplomatic Security Service’s (DSS) Kringle Detail that escorted Santa to the hospital, it was also the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor—marking the start of World War II and a time remembered by many of the hospitalized veterans there.
The day was filled with both poignant and happy moments. Active and retired DSS special agents, their law enforcement colleagues, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and other volunteers ran the traps for the 21st DSS Kringle Detail, protecting Kris Kringle (a.k.a. “Santa Claus”)—a visiting foreign dignitary from the North Pole.
To prepare for this annual event, DSS partnered with VFW members, the Fraternal Order of Police, as well as the Arlington County, Fairfax County, Falls Church, Vienna, and Veterans Administration police departments, and others. They finalized Santa’s route; readied the motorcade of unmarked sedans, police vehicles, and motorcycles; and briefed Santa on his mission. The motorcade serves as a training exercise for DSS, and the agents and officers volunteer their time.
Santa traveled through the streets of the District of Columbia and nearby Virginia suburbs with his DSS protective detail and motorcade. His journey began when he suited up at the John Lyons VFW Post, then visited the VA hospital and an assisted living facility. Santa ended up at the VFW Martin-Leppert-Sipes Post, where the Kringle entourage distributed toys to children in need, as part of Easterseals, an international charitable organization devoted to providing opportunities for children and adults with physical disabilities.
As the motorcade—lights flashing and sirens blaring—passed harried Christmas shoppers on the sidewalks, they first frowned at the disruption, then grinned and waved at Santa who, leaning out the window, responded with his own wave and a “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
During his visit, Santa—who occasionally had to adjust his voluminous belly, which kept shifting sideways—was accompanied by Mrs. Claus and his elves, all working their way into the hearts of many that day and bringing smiles to young and old alike.