(WVEC) -- ABC13 is proud to present our special program Holiday Salute: 30th Anniversary.

Joe Flanagan, Mike Gooding, Sandra Parker and Regina Mobley do their best to bridge the miles between the forward-deployed troops and their loved ones back on the home front.

SPECIAL SECTION: Holiday Salute - A Tribute to our Armed Forces

This year, we take a look back through the decades, and concentrate squarely on the present.

Joe takes a trip down memory lane, finding people who appeared in the first shows, who talk about what the project meant to them. Plus he boards the submarine USS Newport News.

Mike concentrates on the USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group, spends time aboard the aircraft carrier, plus he visits with the men and women of Air Wing Seven, as well as the crews of the USS Gravely, the USS Gonzalez and the USS Bulkeley.

Sandra tells the stories of the hard-working men and women who construct and repair the ships at Newport News Shipbuilding, and she has the tale of Santa Claus, flying in with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Two, "The Fleet Angels."

And Regina takes a special look at our heroes from the past: pilots from the Vietnam War who reflect on their service during a turbulent time, and whose new mission is to educate future generations at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach.

Holiday Salute: 30th Anniversary first aired on December 19 and will re-broadcast on:


  • Thursday, December 24 at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, December 25 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Friday, January 1 at 4:30 p.m.


Holiday Salute was first dreamed up back in the day by Joe Flanagan, when the program was initially called Navy Christmas. He has deployed with the troops numerous times since the first show back in 1986. Perhaps one of his most memorable moments came when he tagged along with a group of Norfolk-based sailors one year, as they attended Midnight Mass at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II.

Joe has hosted the show every year since its inception. He returns for another tour of duty this year. Mike joined up in 1990, and has gone forward to Spain, Italy, Iraq, Vietnam and Africa for the show. Sandra came on board in 2000, and this year, we're proud to have Regina with the team.

The show has spanned seminal events in the late-20th and early-21st centuries, including the Cold War, Operation Desert Storm, the Bosnia and Kosovo wars, 9/11, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and now: Operation Inherent Resolve. The show has encompassed the administrations of five commanders-in-chief: Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. All the while, telling the story through the eyes of local people on the front lines.

Recent years have brought some changes. With the Department of Defense moving toward more joint operations, we decided to change the show's name to reflect all branches of the service: Holiday Salute. Since the recession of 2008, the program has turned inward, focusing on the units stateside, as they prepare to deploy, and on their families stoking the home fires while they are gone.

The commitment remains the same, to try and bring the nation's warriors and their loved ones a little closer at a special time of the year, to thank them for their sacrifice, and to share their stories of dedication and duty with the civilian taxpaying public who support them.

We think, so far, it's been mission accomplished.