Jewish Christmas Delights Soldiers and Children

Members of the 841st Engineer Battalion will soon deploy to Afghanistan.

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    Miami Jewish Health System gave Christmas to 60 soldiers and their 54 children Thursday. (Published Thursday, Dec. 22, 2011)

    With Santa hats and dreidels, organizers spread holiday cheer at Miami Jewish Health System's Christmas the middle of Hannukah.

    "Hannukah is the festival of lights -- all lights," said organizer Leslee Geller, who is Jewish. "Just because you're Jewish, doesn't mean you can't give Christmas to someone else."

    She and MJHS gave Christmas to 60 soldiers and their 54 children -- complete with food, holiday music, dancing, and presents.

    Jeremiah Alveranga, 2, was speechless. He walked, tugging the leg of his dad, Sgt. Patrick Alveranga.

    "I hope I leave at night," said Alveranga, who explained his only son doesn't "really understand what is happening" about his February departure. Alveranga will head to Afghanistan in February to complete supply missions. He expects to be gone nine months to a year.

    But for now, he's focused on making memories with his son, who looked on as the Miami Heat's "Burnie" led other kids in an impromptu Christmas conga line.

    Alveranga said that in 2012, he'll miss seeing his son make new discoveries, and most of all, turning 3. "That's the toughest part," he said.