Airman's family returns home, finds house & yard decorated with Christmas lights

Christmas Decor, Swingle put up patriotic display

LOVELAND, Colo. --

It’s not easy to get into the holiday spirit when you have a loved one deployed overseas.

Shawnda Nelson’s husband, Mark, an airman in the National Guard, missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, the birth of a new daughter, and will now miss Christmas, while serving his country.

The couple’s 5-year old son, Cooper, asked his Aunt Mandy if she’d put Christmas lights up on their house, since his dad wasn’t home.

She wasn’t looking forward to climbing up on a ladder, or dangling over a roof, so she did the next best thing.  She nominated the family for Christmas Décor’s “Decorated Family Program.”

The Nelson family was chosen as a local winner because both Shawnda and Mark are members of the Air National Guard, and have 34 years of combined service.

Work crews from Swingle Lawn, Tree and Landscape Care, the local Christmas Décor affiliate, strung up some holiday and patriotic lights while Shawnda and the children ran a few errands and visited family members.

They placed multi-colored lights around the roof, hung garland on the rain gutter spouts, and decorated three trees in the front yard – one with red lights, one with white and the other with blue.

“These are our favorite types of jobs, honestly,” said crewman Colson Leingang. “It warms all our hearts and makes us work a little bit harder.  We come out and know we’re doing something for people who deserve it.”

Mandy Nelson told Denver7 she is grateful that her brother’s family was selected.

“We’re a proud Air Force family,” she said. “This is something that, while my brother is deployed overseas, will bring a little peace, comfort and joy for them and the kids.”

The big reveal happened at 5:30 p.m. in front of extended family and friends.

There were a few more oohs and aahs from the adults than from the little kids, who didn’t know what to make of the big crowd and television lights. The kids did take long gazing looks at the Christmas lights.

“How exciting, my children are so blessed,” Shawnda said, while Mandy held up a cell phone with Mark on the other end of the line.

“It gives us a sense of pride to be able to do this for somebody who serves our country,” said Swingle’s Tom Lynch.  “Like I said, to be a part of this, to see the kids faces, there’s nothing like it.”

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