Airmen honor those who served before them

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Culeen Shaffer
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing

Not only do Airmen of the 193rd Special Operations Wing serve their country, they serve their community by connecting with those who have served before them. They also educate the community on what it is like to serve.

October 17, 2017 about half a dozen Airmen from the 193rd Special Operations Security Forces Squadron went less than a mile to do just that. Because of a connection that was made by Col. David Smoker (ret.), a former 193rd Special Operations Mission Support Group commander Airmen from 193rd SOSFS have been attending the Middletown Home Veterans’ Dinner since 2014.

The Airmen swap stories, enjoy a meal and take photos with the veterans, who make up about a third of the residents at the home.

Gwen Fetter, the Assistant Director of Community Life says that not only does the visit brighten lives the day of, but it is continual as some residents, including a retired Army nurse, enjoy looking at the photos and reflect back on the visit.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Melendez, who has visited since the beginning, got involved because he thought it was a good way to give back to the community.

“It's a great time to thank those veterans who have served before us and honor those who have fallen in service to our country,” said Melendez.

Airmen from the 193rd SOSFS aren’t the only Airmen from the Wing who visit veterans around Veterans Day. After being approached three years ago by a friend who works for Hospice, Master Sgt. Suzanne McMurray from the 193rd Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron along with other Airmen in the Wing that she recruits, visit veterans who are Hospice patients.

McMurray, whose mother had been a Hospice patient, jumped at the opportunity.

“It is one of the greatest joys in my military career to be able to give back to veterans and hospice patients.  They gave their time and commitment to our country and deserve to be recognized,” said McMurray.

Time and commitment to veterans is something that Chief Master Sgt. Robert Shartle, 193rd Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron, knows a little something about. Shartle follows his father’s footsteps in serving the country and has honored veterans for the last six years by walking.

Shartle, along with past and current serving military members participate in Veterans For Veterans Walk, along route 422 from Wernersville to Womelsdorf. They walk approximately six miles, sharing stories, waving to those driving by and stopping for ceremonies. Shartle not only supports the event as a walker, but eventually coordinating military vehicles; that provide transportation and protection for the walkers. He has also spoken a few times at the street-side ceremonies.

From Airmen walking on the streets to Airmen who raise awareness of veterans who live on the streets, the 193rd SOW has a heart for veterans.

Master Sgt. William Meiser of the 201st REDHORSE, a member of Lebanon VFW Post 23 and other Post members started a Homeless Veterans Awareness Campaign in 2012 where volunteers become homeless for 30 hours to raise awareness and financial support for homeless veterans.

Not only are 193rd SOW Airmen educating the community through events, they speak at schools.

Yearly, schools all over the state reach out to Airmen and the 193rd Special Operations Wing Public Affairs Office, looking for speakers to come talk to their students from kindergarten to college age. It’s a great way to get their story out there and connect with the community who may not know much about what it is like for one to serve.

While some of the Wing’s Airmen participate in a volunteer capacity, one group has had the honor to participate in an official capacity.

The Air National Guard Band of the Northeast has marched along 5th Avenue in the New York City Veterans Day Parade the past couple years and will again, this year.

These 193rd SOW Airmen and the many others throughout the wing has a sense of pride, not only for their own service, but the service of those before them. Their community outreach to veterans and the community may be mostly seen around significant holidays, however, their contributions to community and service is year around.