VA and Air National Guard Take Care of Troops, Families

KEH

By Capt. John T. Stamm, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, 123rd AW PA
(photos by Air Force Tech Sergeant Dennis Flora)

Ringtoss by a family member of the 123rd Airlift Wing during the Family Day celebration.

LOUISVILLE, KY (July 17, 2010)–Despite the intense heat and humidity, members of the Kentucky Air National Guard and their families gathered to celebrate “Family Day” at the 123rd Airlift Wing headquarters and air base.

The event was a coordinated effort between the 123rd Family Readiness Office and the Louisville Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

Mr. Dave Rooney, Airman and Family Readiness Program manager for the Wing, led the coordination of base involvement which beginning back in January.

“The VA contacted me and wanted to reach out to the members of the Air National Guard,” Mr. Rooney said.  “Family Day is an annual event here, and provided the perfect opportunity for the VA to ‘welcome home’ everyone from the Air Guard who has deployed since 9-11.”

Mr. Wayne Pfeffer, Director of the Louisville VA Medical Center, read the plaque citation given to the Wing’s leadership, ““The Robley Rex Veterans Affairs Medical Center stands proud to honor the brave men and women of the 123rd Airlift Wing, Kentucky Air National Guard for their significant contributions  and sacrifice given to the United States of America.  Welcome home and thank you. “

The day was filled with events and activities.  For the adults, there was a corn-hole game tournament and classic rock music by the local Louisville band, “Cadillac Shack.”  Kids were treated to several games including a “pugel stick” pit, a football toss challenge and rides around the parking lot on a mini C-130 cargo transport plane replicating the aircraft flown by the Wing.

There was also a martial arts demonstration provided by St. Matthews Martial Arts. The Army National Guard was a hit with their obstacle course and rock-climbing wall.  An estimated 1600 people were in attendance for the celebration.

The festivities were more than just a “thank-you” for the troops, explained Mr. Rooney.  The underlying motive was to educate everyone about the various programs and benefits that the VA offers to take care of veterans and their families post-deployment.

“The VA’s main focus was to educate and register as many troops as possible for VA benefits, to include employment assistance and referral program as well as family advocacy and medical issues” Rooney said.  “Registry into the system allows them to utilize all the resources available.”

Representatives from 22 service providers around the community that assist veterans regarding various issues also were present.

“The VA connects with service providers through the state and nation to get veterans the help they need for whatever reason,” Rooney said. “ESGR (Employer Support of Guard and Reserve) being a major resource to help troops and employers with various issues that may arise after returning from a war zone.”

Among those lending support were several University of Kentucky football players who volunteered their time to ensure the day was a success.

“We appreciate what are (troops) are doing for us,’ said Luke Mc Dermott, defensive tackle for the team. “We just wanted to give something back.”

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