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Navy chief raises money to send junior sailors home for holidays

Christmas has always been a time for family and friends to gather, exchange gifts and spend time with one another. Sometimes, not every member of the family can be home, and when a family member is deployed it can change how a family spends the holiday season. (Air Force/Released)

Chief U.S. Navy Counselor Grant Khanbalinov, 29, who grew up in Grant City, felt bad for junior sailors who couldn’t get home for the holidays.

Many times, it’s simply because of the cost of an airplane ticket.

For this reason, the Navy chief, stationed in Memphis, Tenn. recently launched “Operation Send Sailors Home,” so some junior sailors didn’t have to be without their loved ones for the holidays.

“It can be hard during the holidays, especially for junior sailors,” Khanbalinov told the Advance. “For some of them, this might be their first time being gone. We wanted to make the holiday season a little bit easier.”

Khanbalinov, known online as “Chief Khan,” spread the word via social media that the organization was seeking sailors who needed help paying for a trip home during the holidays.

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“I asked for nominations and for as many people to share the post as possible. Once we had a pool of people, we assigned them all a number and just asked google to randomly pick,” he said.

“Some of the sailors chosen already had plane tickets so we just reimbursed what they paid. Others that we couldn’t afford to help we sent $200 dollars each to buy Christmas gifts. In total, we were able to buy three plane tickets and send two other sailors $200 dollars,” Khanbalinov added.

And Khanbalinov is no stranger to using social media to help fellow military. He has been lauded for his prior social media efforts to help sailors, veterans and Navy brass who are depressed, suicidal or simply in need of someone to talk to.

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© 2019 Staten Island Advance