No-cost decorations will help welcome 4 Oakmont vets home from Navy
The Christmas lights strung around the Wilson house probably shine no brighter than others in Oakmont.
But it would be fruitless to try to convince Christopher and Diane Wilson otherwise, especially on Dec. 20 when four of their five children will be home from their duty assignments in the Navy. It will be the first time the family has been reunited since 2006.
“My gosh, I could cry — in fact, I'm starting to cry,” Diane Wilson said. “It's just weird. I keep telling them, ‘Just because you're grown, doesn't mean you're not mine.' ”
She only learned recently that all four kids would be coming home. The Wilsons' children include three from Diane's previous marriage and two from Christopher's previous marriage. Their youngest, Logan Schmidt, 18, plans to enlist in the Navy within a year, Diane said.
Those now serving are:
• Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Schmidt, 24, a medical corpsman on the destroyer USS Porter, who is returning from a deployment to the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.
• Petty Officer 3rd Class Lindsay Copeland, 23, an aviation ordinance technician on the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
• Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Wilson, 21, an information technology specialist at the Naval weather station in Norfolk, Va.
• Seaman Megan Holmes, 19, also an aviation ordinance technician aboard the Nimitz.
Sitting near a wall that displays photos of her four sailors and wearing a gray “Navy” sweatshirt, Wilson said her children will arrive intermittently from Dec. 14 through Dec. 20, but after that they will all be together for at least five days before the children return to duty.
“With everyone coming home, everyone gets to meet everyone else,” she said.
She said Megan was married right before entering the Navy a year ago and some of her siblings have not met her husband. And Megan hasn't met Lindsay's son, Noah, who was born about 18 months ago.
“We have parties to go to, family portraits, family dinners,” Wilson said, adding that as a family of gun enthusiasts, they also will take time to go to a shooting range. “It's something we can all do together,” she said.
What will make this Christmas even more special are the lights that were strung Saturday morning. The roof at 468 Elm Way has strung lights, as do the walk and bushes. A wreath and garland hang from the house and the picket fence in front of it.
The decorating job was done for free by Christmas Decor by E.L.F. Entertainment, a Richland-based company owned by Beth and Maury Frankel of Cheswick.
Beth Frankel said it is an annual tradition for her company — the local franchisee of the company Christmas Decor — to spiff up the exterior of the homes of select military families at no cost. The program is called “Decorated Family.”
“We want to give back to the community because the community is what has supported our business for the last 13 years,” Frankel said.
Frankel said her company, E.L.F. Entertainment, picked up on the program when it became Christmas Decor's local franchisee six years ago.
She said the Wilson home was the fourth they've decorated this Christmas season. After Oakmont, they were heading to Pittsburgh's Hazelwood section.
Although the cutoff date was Nov. 11 — and Diane Wilson's email arrived after that date — the Frankels decided decorating the house was a no-brainer.
“My husband and I looked at the email and said this is one we had to do, no question,” Frankel said.
Diane Wilson said she'd seen a TV story on the program and thought, “if we ever had all the kids home at the same time, we would do that.”
The Wilsons used to decorate heavily but had gotten away from it in recent years. Having Frankel and her four Santa hat-wearing employees tripping the house out with lights will make this Christmas something of a throwback.
“They all used to love it when we decorated,” Wilson said. “They'll all come in at night ... they'll see it all lit up.”
Frankel's employees said they enjoy decorating military families' homes.
“Yeah, but this one is a little more special,” said Jeff Kedzierski of Indiana Township after hanging a big wreath on the house.
But nowhere near as special as it is for the Wilsons.
“I don't know when this will ever happen again,” Wilson said. “You never know.”
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or email@example.com.