Happy New Year to all. We have passed through our holidays with much joy and family activities. The AWCF continued to provide support for “our own” and the Wounded warriors. Our major Christmas program is the Christmas Hope project at the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC). This continues to be led by Rick Zehrer and Gary Baber. This year, we provided over $62,000 to 85 families and 209 children. This enabled those Wounded warriors and their families to have a little brighter Christmas. Thanks to Rick and the Lake Travis group that donates the funds.
At Walter Reed Bethesda, through the efforts of Gene and Sharon Russell, the AWCF provided Christmas Dinners for 25 Wounded warrior families. There was a choice of turkey, roast beef or ham with all the trimmings. They were packed so that the families could go to their quarters and heat everything for a traditional family style dinner. The AWCF had done the same thing for 25 families during the Thanksgiving holiday.
In one case of caring for our own, the Heartland River Rat Pack led by Mike “Loadhacker” Sloniker, Bill “Shortfinger” Schwertfeger, Chuck DeBellevue, and Roger Locher have been working very closely with the leadership at Vance AFB, OK. Last June, Loadhacker at a Vance Change of Command, discussed long distance education support for the enlisted at Vance with the Wing Chief. The enlisted are mainly ATC, medics, and security forces. These young enlisted are taking long distance education to get degrees. In this pursuit, they encounter some expenses that are difficult to cover with their salaries. The need for $1000 to help some of the expenses was brought to the attention of the AWCF Operations Committee. We have the Archie and Sue Lorentzen Educational Endowment Fund created by the legacy left by Archie and Sue to the AWCF. The purpose of this is to help those of “our own” reach their goals for a college education. We will be providing the $1000 to help in the long distance learning program. We will stand by as the need for more arises. We are also using these Lorentzen funds to help AFROTC students who encounter financial problems.
In another case, we have been helping AF Captain Christy Wise at SAMMC. She is an Air Force C-130 pilot who lost her right leg above the knee when someone ran over her with a boat in Florida. Christy completed her rehab last month and is now in SOS. The AWCF had been helping subsidize some of her living expenses while she was in rehab. She will soon meet a Medical Evaluation Board with hopes to return to the cockpit. The Grey Haired Moving and Storage Company, our Humanitarian of the Year awardees in 2014, had furnished her home. They have recovered the furniture and appliances and the furniture will go into the home of a wounded warrior and his family as this is being written. B/G Krusty Goodfellow, formerly 12th Training Wing Commander at Randolph, who is now the commandant of Squadron Officers School is looking after Christy. This is another example of the great work by the AWCF and the River Rats in this area.
On 1 February, Bruce “Orville” Wright, Ed Ballanco, Dino Murray and I had lunch with General Dave Goldfein in the Pentagon. It gave us a chance to talk about things that the AWCF, River Rats, and Wild Weasels were doing. One of the things of concern to General Goldfein is the care and help for Air Force warriors suffering from PTSD. I told him that if there are things that the AF cannot do, particularly financially, that the AWCF may be able to step in and help these warriors. There will be a meeting on 18 February during which the plan will be discussed. The AWCF has been invited to attend the meeting and discuss its capability to help. I will be at that meeting. The picture of our group with General Goldfein is below.
Left to right are: Colonel Jeannie Leavitt, Colonel Paul “Dino” Murray, General Dave “Fingers” Goldfein, Dave Brog, Ed Ballanco, Bruce “Orville” Wright and M/G John Horner.