Liberty County Marine surprises family for Christmas

Tammy Thompson was surprised on Saturday when her son, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Kelton Tanner, walked through the door of her Moss Hill home. He is stationed in Pensacola, Fla.

A Liberty County Marine is home just in time for Christmas. Pvt. 1st Class Kelton Tanner, 18, surprised his family members on Saturday, giving them the “best Christmas present ever,” according to his mom, Tammy Thompson.

His $600 airfare home from Pensacola, Fla., was partially paid by the Liberty Elks Lodge #2019 through its Boots Home for the Holidays program.

“I didn’t know if I had the funds to get the plane ticket home. I heard about the Elks Lodge program, got in touch with them and starting talking to them about my plans,” Tanner said.

Before long, his flight was booked with $200 of his airfare funded by the Elks Lodge.

“I am very thankful for what they are doing to help bring us home and then helping me keep the secret from my family. I am really happy to be back in Texas,” he said.

Tanner, a 2022 graduate of Hardin High School, left for boot camp in June and has only seen his family for a few days in September since that time. His absence has been hard for his mother, who admits to lacking Christmas spirit this year.

Ikey Dean King, 4, hugs his uncle, Marine Pvt. 1st Class Kelton Tanner, after Tanner surprised his family on Saturday by coming home for Christmas.

“It was taking a toll on me knowing that my baby wouldn’t be home for Christmas and that all five of my babies wouldn’t be together for the holidays,” she said. “I was so happy to see him that I cried and cried. Kelton’s oldest nephew, Ikey Dean, who is 4, was so excited to see him, too. We are all overjoyed.”

Tanner is the first Liberty County active military member to take advantage of the Liberty Elks Lodge’s grant program. Despite there being no strings attached through the Elks Freedom Grant, Liberty Elk Jennifer Regen said only Tanner and one other active military member have reached out for assistance.

“We have three grants left and time is running out,” Regen said.

The only stipulation for the travel assistance grant is that they must be qualifying active military members with family living in the jurisdiction of Liberty Elks Lodge #2019, which means that any Liberty or Chambers county active military member qualifies.

“They must be traveling back to Liberty or Chambers counties to qualify,” Regen said.

If you know an active military member who needs assistance this holiday season, please call Regen at 713-540-3708.

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