By Airman 1st Class William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Schriever Airmen and volunteers from the Noncommisioned Officer’s Association Air Academy Chapter 300 hosted a meet and greet cookout for Gold Star families outside Falcon Stadium at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Oct. 6.
Gen. Jay Raymond, Air Force Space Command, commander, greeted families before a free meal and visit from The Bird, the Air Force Falcons’ mascot. Additionally, the Gold Star families met real live falcons and watched the football game.
The event was part of the NCOA AA Chapter 300’s effort to provide morale boosting support to Gold Star families, localizing a national NCOA incentive.
A Gold Star family is one that has lost a loved one in military service. It derives from World War I when a gold star was placed over a service flag’s blue star when a service member was killed in combat.
“Even though it’s chilly, I give this event a ten-star rating,” said Gabriel Ribeiro, 10, Gold Star child.
He said he was excited to meet the live falcons and go to his first football game.
“I love football. I always watch it on the television, now I can watch the game in real life,” Ribeiro said.
Aracelys and Yarelys Martinez, 16, twin sisters and Gold Star children, said the free food and warm reception countered the day’s cold weather.
“I feel really supported, they are so kind to us,” Yarelys said.
“It’s like a little community up here, the people are really showing they care,” Aracelys added.
After the meet, the families attended part of the Air Force Falcons versus Navy Midshipmen football game, ending in a 35 — 7 Air Force Falcons’ win.
Master Sgt. Carl White, squadron superintendent with the 22nd Space Operations Squadron, who helped organize the event, said he was honored to host the families.
“Each chapter under the national NCOA branch tries to do their own thing to support Gold Star families; we do a day at a sporting event,” White said. “This gives the Gold Star families a day out where they don’t have to worry about anything other than showing up. We take it from there and provide them with a fun experience.”
Ribeiro said the event made him happy and gave him a chance to unwind.
“This helps me feel better and it’s really fun to see everyone,” he said.
The Martinez twins echoed gratitude for the opportunity.
“We are definitely grateful to be able to get out here and watch this game and meet the hawks — that was really cool,” Aracelys said.
“Knowing we have a support system out there for us, it’s a good feeling,” Yarelys added.
White said he hopes to host more events for Gold Star families in the future, continuing to strengthen the bonds between Schriever AFB, Gold Star families and the Colorado Springs military community.
“We plan on continuing these successful events,” he said. “They are set up to allow families to pick and choose what they want to attend. Hopefully, we will have even more families next time.”