John Hahn is very thankful for the many years he’s spent in the military community. The retired Marine colonel and current Deputy SPO for the 19th ESC in South Korea, knows what it’s like to be away from home during the holiday season. And, he says, it’s the perfect time “to try to do everything possible to make someone else’s life a little better.”
So when Hahn was told he was the winner of the Stars and Stripes $1,000 DeCA shopping spree, he figured it was the perfect time to share with others. He reached out to 19th ESC and Area IV Family Life Chaplain Maj. Simon Chang. The two of them came up with a plan that would help make Thanksgiving special for some younger troops.
Stripes Korea caught up with the two after Thanksgiving to see how everything went.
Q. What were your thoughts when you found out you won the shopping spree?
Hahn: I almost didn’t answer the phone because I did not recognize the number. But when I did answer it, I actually thought it was a crank call. When I spun the wheel at the Camp Henry Exchange that day and landed on the shopping spree, I never really thought I had a chance of winning! I was so surprised when the Stars and Stripes rep told me that I had won!!!
Q. Why did you decide to donate the food to the chaplain’s office?
Hahn: We are in that time of year when we stop to think more about those who are less fortunate than ourselves and try to do everything possible to make someone else’s life a little better. I have been fortunate my entire military career, retiring as a colonel from the Marine Corps and then being hired as the Deputy SPO for the 19th ESC. My wife Susan and I are blessed with everything we need, so it only made sense to donate the food to the Area IV Chaplains who could put it to good use over the holidays.
Q. What were your thoughts when Mr. Hahn approached you about donating the shopping spree groceries to your team?
Chang: We were very glad and thankful for Mr. Hahn’s willingness and spirit to share his fortune with our soldiers and families in our community. Our garrison chapel also has a Holiday Food Voucher Program for the Area IV community, but it is not enough to support the whole community. We knew immediately that Mr. Hahn’s donation would allow us to support more people in our community during the holiday.
Q. So what was the game plan before the shopping started. You had three minutes. Did you scope the store out beforehand and discuss with the chaplain what was needed?
Hahn: I had scoped out the options when I went grocery shopping for my family. Then, after discussing the Chaplain’s needs, I decided to spend the first two minutes getting a cart load of turkeys and hams. That would give me a minute or so to go after some canned goods. I was a lot faster getting the first cart of turkeys than I had expected, so I went back for a second cart. That left about 40 seconds to go down the canned vegetables isle to fill my third cart about half way. Unfortunately, when the turkeys were rung up, the cashier only got about 3/4s the way through the first cart of turkeys when the total hit about $960! So we stopped counting the remaining turkeys and hams and returned to the canned goods to round out the grand total to $999.96!
Q. How did it all work out?
Chang: We were very happy to see our soldiers and their families in a relaxed and uplifted spirit. I always notice that our soldiers look different when they are in the midst of their families.
Q. You’ve been a part of the military community for many years, and have probably been away from home during many holidays. That’s part of military life. Tell us about celebrating holiday with your “military family.”
Hahn: Over my 28 years in the Marine Corps, I have celebrated the vast majority of my holidays away from my family in places like Japan, the Philippines, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, East Timor, Australia, Iraq and now Korea. Here locally, we have a number of events to choose from that includes the Sustainer Grill on Camp Henry to various events being held by soldiers within the Support Operations office. It is always nice to be stationed at a location where everyone is so friendly and inviting during the holidays.
Chang: As many of you may agree with me, it is not easy to celebrate the holidays overseas, whether you are here with family or not. It is somewhat different from what we celebrate in the States no matter how much we try. Something is always missing. It may be because the surrounding local community does not celebrate our traditional holidays as we do. It may be because we cannot be with our families and loved ones. I think that is why it is so important to support each other during this holiday season. Sharing in the holiday spirit as Mr. Hahn did always brings us closer like a family, and helps us appreciate the holiday season more.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
Hahn: I want to thank the Stars and Stripes for allowing me to participate in this contest, and the Commissary for allowing me “mess” up their store just a bit. Everyone was extremely helpful and supportive. I would like to wish all your readers a very happy Holiday Season.