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America's Military Charity® 501(c)(3)
2021 Goods and Services Delivered $38,000,000 (est.)
2021 Overhead: Less than 5%
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The bridge between you and America’s troops

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS®

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America's Military Charity® 501(c)(3)
2021 Goods and Services Delivered $38,000,000 (est.)
2021 Overhead: Less than 5%
Donate Today

Providing assistance to and promoting support
for America’s troops and their families

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS®
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America's Military Charity® 501(c)(3)
2021 Goods and Services Delivered $38,000,000 (est.)
2021 Overhead: Less than 5%
Donate Today

Serving Those Who Serve

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS®
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Donate Today
America's Military Charity® 501(c)(3)
2021 Goods and Services Delivered $38,000,000 (est.)
2021 Overhead: Less than 5%

If they’re there, we’re with them

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS®
[caption id="attachment_3821" align="alignleft" width="300"]AirGuardInstructor07092010 Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler served 12 years in the Marine Corps before becoming an instructor for the Texas Air National Guard's Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center in El Paso, Texas. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith[/caption] EL PASO, Texas – Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Butler is a former Marine who’s now serving here as an instructor with the Texas Air National Guard.
"I absolutely love my job down here and the guys I work with," Butler said about serving with the 204th Security Forces Squadron, which operates the Desert Defender Air Force Regional Training Center.Butler is putting the combat knowledge he gained through his Marine Corps service to use by preparing active duty, Air Guard, and Air Force Reserve Command security forces airmen for area security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their training includes mounted operations on armored vehicles, dismounted patrols, counterinsurgency operations, and sniper and countersniper operations. Butler provides his students with some Marine Corps-style confidence-building during their nearly 50 days of intense training. "I tell them up front, 'I'm going to push you to your limits, as far as I can possibly push you,' and that's what we do," he said. "Coming out of here, they learn a valuable lesson, whether it's how much they can stand, or who can stand the heat and who needs to be trained a little bit more." The Guard is well known for its soldiers and airmen who bring civilian expertise as well as prior service knowledge to a mission. Butler said the real-life experiences of all the Guard instructors help in developing scenarios that show students what they will encounter when they’re deployed. Butler joined the Air Guard after serving 12 years in the Marine Corps and two years with Air Force Reserve Command, which brought him to the Texas Guard on a temporary duty assignment. "I had no intentions when I came to this unit of joining the Guard until I came down here," he said. Since he joined, the schoolhouse has grown to become an Air Force-certified, regional facility with new buildings, classrooms and the latest military equipment. "We put our heads together and based off of that and what the [Air Force] Security Forces Center requires us to teach, [we] roll that all into one training package," he said. Butler works with 39 other instructors, including other Marine Corps and Army combat veterans, former police officers and other experienced Guardsmen. "The drive, the desire to do good and teach these deploying defenders is in every single one of the cadre,â€Â said Air Force Lt. Col. Carl Alvarez, the squadron and training center commander. “We all give a 110 percent every day to these students." Alverez said experience "outside the wire" in the combat theater is an important element the instructors bring to the table. "The cadre has fired their weapons in theater,â€Â he said. “They have seen it, they have done it, and that is what we are best suited to [teach]." July 9, 2010: By Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith-National Guard Bureau
[caption id="attachment_3873" align="alignleft" width="300"]YeomanDisplays Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Clark, left, gives documents to Navy Rear Adm. John Jolliffe, vice commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, at Naval Support Activity Bahrain. Clark handles all correspondence for the command's chief of staff, flag secretary, deputy commander, and commander. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason T. Poplin[/caption] MANAMA, Bahrain– Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Clark says his flag staff office job at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command here is comparable to "working in the stock market on Wall Street."
His fast-paced duties as a yeoman include military correspondence, clerical work, office management, travel coordination, supply work and career counseling."I like doing what I do," Clark said. "I like making sure every sailor and military member is taken care of."Clark's primary responsibilities include tracking correspondence for the chief of staff, flag secretary, deputy commander and commander, and taking care of the travel needs of personnel from seamen to admirals. Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Croon said Clark is an invaluable part of the team. "I call him the work horse," said Croon, the flag office's leading petty officer. "He's a hard worker. When he gets a task, he's on it until he's finished, and then he's on to the next one." Clark, a native of Clearwater, Fla., reported to the command in October 2009. He originally was assigned to work in Naval Forces Central Command's administration office, but his chain of command recognized his outstanding work ethic and transferred him to the flag office. "When he left the regular administration office, he had to turn over his job to three people," Croon said. "He has a lot of impact at the command for a second class petty officer." Clark is scheduled to transfer to San Diego in November, where he will serve at his fifth command, aboard the USS Decatur. "I'd like to pick up my surface warfare pin and be a leading petty officer at sea," he said. "I also want to pursue a college degree." Clark attributed his success here to a love of customer service. "Positive attitude gets the job done," he said. May 25, 2010: By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason T. Poplin- U.S. Naval Forces Central Command
[caption id="attachment_3863" align="alignleft" width="320"]CancerSurvivorReady Air Force Senior Airman Brian Petras sits in the cockpit of a C-130 Hercules, May 11, 2010, on the flightline at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. Diagnosed with cancer in 2009, he returned to duty less than a year after surgery to remove part of his right leg. He is a flight engineer with the 50th Airlift Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Steele C.G. Britton[/caption] LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark.,- One year ago, Air Force Senior Airman Brian Petras was flying C-130 Hercules missions around the world.
Since then, the flight engineer was diagnosed with cancer, underwent extensive surgery, recuperated, returned to all duties except flying and passed his physical fitness test with no score adjustments.And he passed with just one foot. Petras, 24, has 700 deployed flying hours from two deployments, and he's a cancer survivor.Last summer, after icing his sore foot for a month and seeing no improvement, he went to the doctor. "It started out as kind of like a lump on my foot, like a swelling," he said, "and I just thought it was a sprained muscle or something." After a month and a half of tests and treatments, Petras learned he had a malignant tumor and said that doctors would have to amputate his right foot. "I was shocked," he said. "But since I … knew it was definitely going to happen, I just decided I could either stay positive or feel sorry for myself. I've just been trying to go on as normal as possible." Before his surgery, Petras enjoyed biking, running and snowboarding. Since his surgery, he not only enjoys all of the same activities, but also has become even more active. He recently rode his bicycle 350 miles across Texas in six days, and later this month he will begin a two-month, 4,000-mile coast-to-coast bike ride from San Francisco to Virginia. The trip, organized by World Team Sports, is called "The Face of America: Sea to Shining Sea Ride." In the ride, Petras will join about a half dozen injured servicemembers from each of the military branches, along with a few civilians, to raise money for charities. Petras said his desire to returning to flying was a major factor that motivated him to recover and return to work so quickly. "I just enjoy flying," he said, "I can't stand sitting around. I like traveling. I like just being on the flight, and I like the challenge of it. "As of right now, I'm 95 percent back to normal,â€Â he continued. “There's really not much holding me back. I can run, snowboard, ride a bike, pretty much do anything. I can do everything I could before. I feel 100 percent confident I can go back and do my job without any problem." Despite his unshakable positive attitude, the road to recovery hasn't been easy. "The first couple of months were pretty rough," he acknowledged. He healed for six weeks after the Aug. 24 amputation before he got a prosthetic leg. In the middle of September, he started the first of four rounds of chemotherapy that spanned three months. "It was one week on, then three weeks off to recover," he explained. He got his prosthetic leg shortly after his first round and began rehabilitation between subsequent rounds. "That was pretty rough,â€Â he admitted. “The chemo pretty much knocked me out. I had almost no energy. I felt sick. I really couldn't do much. I could barely take care of myself. Luckily, I was able to get a prosthetic [leg] and walk around without crutches and still do certain things, but I was still really tired." Petras went home for Christmas after his final chemotherapy session, and in January he went to the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. "It specializes in care for amputees and burn victims," he said, "It's mostly guys coming from Iraq and Afghanistan that are there. But they do a really good job.â€Â His time at the center gave him perspective, Petras said. “Here's me with a below-the-knee amputation, rehabbing and getting done in three months, and there are guys who've been there for years,â€Â he said. “They're missing both of their legs, they're missing [legs] above the knee, they're missing arms and hands, or 90 percent of their body is burned, and me coming in there is like a scratch. It's not a big deal at all. "Those guys are very inspiring,â€Â he continued. “Some of the guys, with the stuff they're going through, have just as good an attitude as I have, so we all kind of helped each other. To [the other patients], you're no different; you don't get treated any different." Petras said he was very pleased with the care he received at the center. "The people who worked at the [Center for the Intrepid], they're just really good at their jobs, from the physical therapists, to the occupational therapist to the psychologist there. Everybody cared about us and made sure we got the best training possible or the best rehabilitation possible. They did a really good job." He added that he’s especially grateful for the care he received from John Wood, his recovery care coordinator, and Lauren Palmer, his medical case manager. They were “two people who helped me out immensely. Not even just medical stuff, but anything," he said. "I don't like to consider myself handicapped. … I feel normal," he added. The Bloomsbury, N.J., native said he continues to look to the future. "The biggest thing I want to convey is that I don't see it as a serious problem right now,â€Â he said. “I see it as a minor inconvenience, and I want other people to treat me like that. I think of this thing as a pair of glasses. For me, it's something that takes me five extra minutes to get out of bed in the morning. … The biggest challenge for me is taking a shower standing on one leg. … Some people have injuries that are not as visible as mine, yet they're not even as mobile as me. I don't limp, I can run, I can do whatever. "I don't want my accomplishments to be thought of as 'Brian the amputee' did something,â€Â he added. “I don't like that. I want it to just be 'Brian' did something. I want to be treated like it's not that big of a deal. I don't feel handicapped. … As far as I'm concerned, I was ready to [return to flying] in January." May 20, 2010: By Air Force Capt. Joseph Knable-19th Airlift Wing
FatherDaughterReturn Crystal Hempstead pose for a photo during their pre-mobilization training at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. Crystal Hempstead since has been promoted to sergeant. The soldiers serve with the Indiana National Guard's 1313th Engineer Company. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elizabeth Gorenc[/caption] CAMP ATTERBURY JOINT MANEUVER TRAINING CENTER, Ind., – It's difficult for any leader to send someone into harm's way, but it's especially hard when that someone is your daughter.
Army 1st Sgt. Robert Hempstead, first sergeant for the Indiana National Guard's 1313th Engineer Company, knows what that's like. The company, based in Columbus, Ind., recently returned from a tour in Iraq, and Hempstead's daughter, Crystal, is one of the unit's soldiers."This sort of thing is unusual and caused some initial concern among the command group," Hempstead said. "She was part of 1413th Engineer Company as a mechanic. When she heard of the deployment, she came to me and asked to go. We were short mechanics, so we took her."Sgt. Crystal Hempstead said it didn't seem to her to be a big issue. "Because there was such a rank difference, it wasn't like I was going to be working directly with him," she explained. "I think he handled it very well. It was frustrating, because it was almost like he was harder on me than everybody else. There was definitely no favoritism anywhere." Crystal said that although people often told her she was fortunate to deploy with family, she doesn't necessarily agree. "We're in a combat zone," she said. "Do you really want your parents to go to a combat zone? Just as much as it tore him up for me to be there, it was upsetting to me that he was there. Honestly, I didn't like seeing him there." Handling the desire to be protective of his daughter wasn't easy for Hempstead, he said, but his experience as a senior noncommissioned officer gave him the perspective to manage the situation. "I had to flip the switch with her, but I did that with all of [the company's soldiers]," he said. "To say that I wasn't concerned about her would be a lie, but to say I wasn't concerned about all of them would also be a lie." Hempstead said he is proud of his daughter's ambition and looks forward to her future as a soldier and as a young woman. "She's an E-5 now, and she's 22 years old," he said. "She has a very good opportunity to work at the Patriot Academy. She's finishing her degree. She doesn't need me as much as she thinks she does." The young NCO said she would deploy with her father again. "He is a good first sergeant, and he definitely knows what he is doing," she said. "In that aspect, I would serve with him again, but it would always be in the back of my mind that my dad is overseas again, and I would rather he not be. But it is his career as much as it is mine, and that is just part of it." May 21, 2010: By Army Sgt. David Bruce- Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
[caption id="attachment_3856" align="alignleft" width="280"]CoupleHasDream Vanessa Muza Teskey and Air Force Capt. Mike Hawkins have some of their wedding photos taken at the San Francisco waterfront May 14, 2010. The couple won the San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway through online voting. Mrs. Hawkins has been diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. Vendors donated $100,000 of goods and services for their wedding day. U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cheung[/caption] SAN FRANCISCO, Cancer seemed as far away as a San Francisco seagull could fly as an Air Force captain danced his first dance with his new bride.
Mike and Vanessa Hawkins married on the San Francisco waterfront May 14, and for a few weeks, they could push aside her Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma for a wedding they’d won in the San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway.The online contest provided the couple -- she an Air Force Academy graduate and he a University of Virginia ROTC graduate -- with a $100,000 wedding package that included the ceremony at a luxury waterfront hotel, custom-designed rings, a honeymoon in nearby Napa, Calif. It also allowed the bride to temporarily set aside the sweatpants and T-shirts she wears for chemotherapy and radiation treatments in favor of a white, strapless Lee Ann Belter gown. The only visible sign of the bride's illness, which usually is widespread in the lymph nodes and other parts of the body such as lungs, liver or bone, was a bandage on her forearm. "It was definitely like a dream," she said just before the ceremony on the roof of Hotel Vitale, across from the Port of San Francisco. "Even what you can dream cannot be anything like this. I really don't know if I could've planned a wedding right now. This is better than I ever dreamed I could feel, and I feel prettier than I ever dreamed I could look." The couple met exactly three years earlier at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Captain Hawkins was a contracting officer. His future bride worked in personnel after she was given the option of cross-training into the services field or separating from the Air Force and remaining in her career field as a civilian. She chose to separate. They became engaged in July 2008 and received the news of her diagnosis the day before Captain Hawkins deployed to Southwest Asia. They survived the separation while she endured her treatments with the help of the Columbus base community and family and online video chats. Captain Hawkins shaved his head when his fiancée lost her hair because of her chemotherapy treatments. While he was deployed, she was in Wisconsin with her family, so both were apart from their friends in the squadron at Columbus. "But they never forgot about me," she said. Mrs. Hawkins’ nurse submitted the couple in the online San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway, and they wrote an essay and produced a video that told the story of their relationship and her battle with Hodgkin's. The Air Force community quickly went to work, along with Mrs. Hawkins’ father, Van Teskey, in Wisconsin. Captain Hawkins and his fiancée were one of 350 couples in an online contest decided by website voting. "I was getting calls from people on bases throughout the country who had heard about us," said Captain Hawkins, now a contracting officer in Chantilly, Va. "People Air Force-wide had heard about us through the global network. Even people who didn't know us were voting for us and sending [the link] to old squadrons and church groups. They were telling people, 'This is an Air Force captain, and they deserve this.'" He returned home in November, and was with his fiancée on Valentine's Day when a team of photographers and videographers appeared at his mother's home in Stafford, Va., to tell them they were named "the most inspirational couple" in the first San Francisco Dream Wedding Giveaway. Many of their Air Force friends booked their airline tickets and hotel reservations before the couple had theirs. Liz Guthrie, a San Jose wedding consultant with the contest, who had created a nonprofit organization designed to plan smaller weddings, said many people were inspired by the couple's story. "We were looking for someone who was facing illness, loss or hardship to give a wedding to, and the public determined the winner," she said. "Mike and Vanessa's story touched a lot of people, and they won by a landslide.â€Â After their honeymoon in Napa, the couple plans to live in their Fairfax, Va., townhouse, and Mrs. Hawkins will resume her treatments. But she's already thinking past the cancer, to a future that includes nursing school and a family. Captain Hawkins and his new wife said they are grateful to the contest sponsors and to their families and the Air Force community for helping them have their dream wedding day on the San Francisco Bay. "His commanders have been totally supportive and all of the spouses of people in his squadron have been incredible," Mrs. Hawkins said. "He's only been in Virginia for two weeks, and everyone has already reached out to me. Then, there are all of my friends from the academy, and some of them were here for this. That's a relationship you can't build anywhere else, and it's so awesome to be able to share this with them. "The Air Force network is incredible," she said. May 19, 2010: By Randy Roughton- Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
 

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