By Barbara Gleason
In early December, the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) provided an unusual protective detail for a visiting foreign dignitary, Kriss Kringle (a.k.a. Santa Claus). The annual visit, the 21st anniversary of the DSS Kringle Detail, happened to fall on Dec. 7, 2019, which marked the 78th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent entry of the United States into World War II.
The day of Santa’s visit brought many happy memories, but also poignant moments for Santa as he made his first stop at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Washington, D.C. As he leaned over to extend best wishes to a bedridden, elderly veteran in the hospice ward, he asked what the soldier wanted for Christmas. The veteran smiled and replied, “Nothing for me—just pray for my fellow veterans here and for those who died so many years ago today.”
As the motorcade—lights flashing and sirens blaring—passed harried Christmas shoppers on the sidewalks, who first frowned at the disruption, then grinned and waved at Santa who, leaning out the window, responded with his own wave and a jolly “Ho! Ho! Ho!”
Santa’s second stop was an assisted living facility in Arlington, Va., where he greeted residents and their families. While there, he picked up donated presents to deliver to his third stop in nearby Falls Church, Va., where he distributed toys to children in need as part of Easterseals, an international charitable organization devoted to providing opportunities for children and adults with physical disabilities.
To prepare for this annual event, DSS partnered with Veterans of Foreign Wars members, the Fraternal Order of Police, local police departments, and others. They finalized Santa’s route; readied the motorcade of unmarked sedans, police vehicles, and motorcycles; and briefed Santa on his mission. The motorcade serves as a training exercise for DSS, and the agents and officers volunteer their time.
During his visit, Santa was accompanied by Mrs. Claus and his elves, all of whom spread joy and made their way into the hearts of many that day. Additional photos of the Kringle Detail are available on DSS’ Flickr.
Barbara Gleason is a public affairs and media relations specialist in the Diplomatic Security Service Public Affairs Office.