On December 2, 2015 Air Force Captain Costas Dracopoulous was on leave in Kyoto, Japan when he got word of the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people and wounded 22 others. The news got his attention, not just due to the scale of the tragedy, but because San Bernardino is his home town.
And it was even more personal than he originally thought. When he logged on Facebook he saw messages that a friend of his was among the victims of the shooting. The friend was also a father of six.
Dracopoulous, who's currently serving as the flight safety officer for the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, wanted to do something for his friend's children along with all the other children left without parents as a result of the senseless tragedy. After consulting with a chaplain and the Red Cross, he decided the best way to help from afar was to hold a toy drive back at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa.
While most servicemen overseas are usually the recipients of care packages from home, Dracopoulous was asking the 961st squadron to help pack one going the other way, and a pretty big one at that.
His fellow airmen answered the call. Within a matter of days, they rounded up over 50 toys for the victim's children. Before shipping, he coordinated with the local police and mayor's office of San Bernardino to ensure the items would be delivered to the right homes.
"He is an amazing warrior. " said Air Force Lt. Col. Kyle Anderson, 961st AACS commander. "He has the idea and ideals to push forward and take care of the folks that the tragedy affected."
"I'm ecstatic that our 961st family supported him, and it also bodes well for the squadron for one of our own to put on an event like that," Anderson said. "We live in a small world and it shows how a tragedy stateside can affect service members over here."
In a letter expressing gratitude to Dracopoulous and his squadron, Carey Davis - mayor of San Bernadino wrote the following:
I am proud of the united manner by which our nation has responded to the tragic events that forever impacted several lives. Your willing and generous response to the crisis and your selflessness are greatly appreciated. Thank you for going out of your way and facilitating the process between my staff and your squadron. San Bernardino is fortunate to have the support of individuals like you and your base. Once again, please accept my sincere and personal thanks. Your generosity and your willingness to give have significantly impacted the morale of our staff and community.