Navy reservists receive Christmas surprise
Dec. 23, 2010 at 6:23 a.m.
YOAKUM - Eddie and Crystal Varela hugged each other in disbelief, tears streaming down their faces, as a truckload of furniture was unloaded onto their lawn.
"Oh, my God! I want to cry," Crystal sobbed, burying her head into her husband's chest.
The Varelas were the recipients of the Kamin Furniture 2010 Magic of Christmas giveaway.
Buddy Kamin, dressed as Santa Claus, told the surprised couple, "You've got a house full of new furniture, food, clothing, toys and cash."
"One of my helpers told me you didn't even have a Christmas tree. Now you have a brand new tree, too. Merry Christmas!"
Crystal felt blessed, she said. She and Eddie have two children, Joselyn, 5, and Joaquin, 1 1/2.
"We've seen this on TV before, but never thought we'd be the ones," she said. "We are very surprised. Very. We appreciate everything. I couldn't be happier."
"It was going to be a slow Christmas. Unfortunately, we had to fix some things around the house before we spent on Christmas," Eddie admitted. "But Santa showed up. God bless them."
The Varelas were told a photographer was coming by their house to take a photograph for a city of Yoakum album. Eddie works in the water department there.
City manager Calvin Cook came up with the rouse and showed up at the house with Eddie's supervisor.
"You never know what to expect when they tell you the boss is coming to the house," Eddie said. "You wonder what you've done wrong."
What the Varelas have done right is serve their country as Navy Seabees.
Eddie, a Petty Officer Second Class builder, returned earlier this year from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq.
The 22-year-old Crystal, a Seaman welder who should be promoted to Petty Officer Third Class in February, is expected to go to the Philippines in April.
"We just wait for the call. We're ready. It's what we do for our children. It makes us who we are," said Crystal, who works as a cashier at Dairy Treet. "This gives us more of an incentive to do what we do best. Serve our country."
Eddie, 27, who joined the Navy in 2003, agreed.
"After 9/11 I decided that wasn't going to happen to anyone ever again," he said.
Now in its 24th year, the annual giveaway now targets a veteran's family.
"The criteria is the same as it has always been, a family that's trying to make it," Kamin said. "But now it has to be the family of a veteran."
Kamin said he was inspired last year to change to veterans when he saw the funeral procession of Sgt. Gabe Green, of Yorktown, whose family was the recipient of last year's giveaway. Green died in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Valera family was one of four under consideration for the giveaway on the recommendation of Larry Korenek, of the Hallettsville Vietnam War Veterans Association.
"It's my Christmas present to myself," Kamin said. "I asked my wife, Gormeen, 29 years ago to buy me a Santa suit. I only wear it once a year. It's a real high to be able to walk away from here knowing you got the right folks."