Dutch TV show treats Alaska Army family
January 25, 2011
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - Heidi Ornelles, wife of 1st Sgt. Steven Ornelles, Bravo Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion, was born and raised in the Netherlands. She hadn't been home to see her family in almost three years.
That all changed in December when she received a surprise phone call from "All You Need is Love," a Dutch TV reality program that reunites loved ones separated over long distances.
A representative from the show called to tell Heidi that her family had been selected to spend Christmas in the Netherlands with her parents and to be featured on the show's annual Christmas special.
A coworker of Heidi's father had written the television program a letter explaining the family's situation, officially entering them as potential contestants on the show.
A week later, the TV show flew the Ornelles family to Amsterdam.
The only caveat was that Heidi could not tell her parents they were coming to see them and the TV program would film the reunion and air it on Dutch television. The show's annual Christmas special draws about 2.5 million viewers, according to its website.
"I knew Heidi missed her family a lot while I was in Afghanistan," Ornelles said. "Having the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands meant a lot to everyone."
The Ornelles family arrived in the Netherlands Dec. 17 and were taken by bus to Doorn, the town where Heidi's parents live.
The show's host, Robert Ten Brink, informed Heidi's parents (Andries and Alie Wierdsma) that their daughter was waiting for them outside.
Ecstatic, Heidi's parents were filmed walking from their house to the bus where the Ornelles were waiting. With millions of Dutch TV viewers watching, the family was reunited.
"It was an emotional and wonderful afternoon," Heidi said.
The Ornelles family was able to spend the next two weeks in the Netherlands.