By Academy Spirit staff
There were 50 returning Airmen present and 35 preparing to depart at the Academy’s Hail and Farewell event here March 19 where hundreds gathered to honor those who’ve deployed or are about to.
Participation has risen significantly from the handful in attendance some 18 months ago to the 236 people at the most recent gathering, according to Ms. Deb Lyles who’s stepped in as the main coordinator for this emotional event.
“This is an Academy community event,” said Chief Master Sergeant Gerardo Tapia, 10th Mission Support Squadron. “We all roll up our sleeves and do what we can. We have first-term Airmen and family members who volunteer, we really don’t turn away a single soul who wants to help. Even Chick-Fil-A threw in meals. They support us in a big way.”
A staunch supporter of the Welcome Home event is Col. Jimmy McMillian, commander, 10th Air Base Wing, who makes it a point to tell family members of those deploying he is their “first point of contact for whatever they need.” He has earned a stellar reputation for warmth and concern for deployed family members and for his appreciation for Academy warriors events officials say.
“The purpose of this event is two-fold,” said Academy Command Chief Master Sgt. Arvin Davis. “First, it provides an avenue for our deploying members and their families to get first-hand, relevant and fresh information from Airmen who have just returned from locations they are headed to. Their experience is very valuable and many times puts families at ease. Secondly, it gives us an opportunity to thank our returnees for their selfless contributions, their tremendous representation of the Academy downrange and, most importantly, their safe returns. From the sheer numbers, the Academy footprint is getting larger. This event is a good indication that the Academy is fully engaged in the War on Terror.”