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Wingmanship: Easing the burden

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Steven Price, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., gives a safety brief to a crew of volunteer Airmen before installing flooring in a fellow Airman’s Colorado Springs home Nov. 5, 2016. The volunteers from around Team Pete spent 17 hours to complete the two-day task and broke only for lunch to help a wingman and his family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Steven Price, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., gives a safety brief to a crew of volunteer Airmen before installing flooring in a fellow Airman’s Colorado Springs home Nov. 5, 2016. The volunteers from around Team Pete spent 17 hours to complete the two-day task and broke only for lunch to help a wingman and his family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A member of the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures team at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., straps knee pads on at the house of a fellow Airman in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from Peterson helped install new flooring for a family to make it safe for medical needs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A member of the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures team at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., straps knee pads on at the house of a fellow Airman in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from Peterson helped install new flooring for a family to make it safe for medical needs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Senior Airman Dillan Chatar, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., lays plastic down to protect the floor from moisture before laying down flooring in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from Peterson AFB installed flooring in a fellow wingman’s house to meet medical needs of their spouse so they could come home from the hospital. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Senior Airman Dillan Chatar, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., lays plastic down to protect the floor from moisture before laying down flooring in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from Peterson AFB installed flooring in a fellow wingman’s house to meet medical needs of their spouse so they could come home from the hospital. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Airman Gavin Ruddick, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., cuts flooring to install in a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Airmen from Peterson AFB volunteered to help install flooring in the home to prepare for a sick family member to return from an extended hospital stay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Airman Gavin Ruddick, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., cuts flooring to install in a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Airmen from Peterson AFB volunteered to help install flooring in the home to prepare for a sick family member to return from an extended hospital stay. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Robert Helton and Senior Airman Guillermo Loaiza-Martinez, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., work together to install flooring in a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from around base helped their wingman so he could focus on his family and healing, rather than the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Robert Helton and Senior Airman Guillermo Loaiza-Martinez, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., work together to install flooring in a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Volunteers from around base helped their wingman so he could focus on his family and healing, rather than the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A child’s poster hangs on the wall of a Peterson Airman’s house in Colorado Springs, Colo., while volunteers work to install new flooring Nov. 5, 2016. Sixteen volunteers from units around base came together to ensure the Airman could focus on helping his family and not the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A child’s poster hangs on the wall of a Peterson Airman’s house in Colorado Springs, Colo., while volunteers work to install new flooring Nov. 5, 2016. Sixteen volunteers from units around base came together to ensure the Airman could focus on helping his family and not the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Volunteers from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., install flooring into a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Sixteen volunteers from units around base came together to ensure the Airman could focus on helping his family and not the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Volunteers from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., install flooring into a fellow Airman’s home in Colorado Springs, Nov. 5, 2016. Sixteen volunteers from units around base came together to ensure the Airman could focus on helping his family and not the logistics of repairing the flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Airmen from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., install flooring for a fellow Airman in his Colorado Springs home Nov. 5, 2016. The new flooring allowed the Airman to focus on his family and healing instead of the logistics of how to install new flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Airmen from Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., install flooring for a fellow Airman in his Colorado Springs home Nov. 5, 2016. The new flooring allowed the Airman to focus on his family and healing instead of the logistics of how to install new flooring. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rose Gudex)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- An early Saturday morning in November found a normally quiet residential street in Colorado Springs bustling with Airmen unloading truckloads of tools and supplies as the sun came up over neighboring houses.

Volunteers from units around Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, helped a fellow Airman install new flooring in his Colorado Springs home Nov. 5, to ease the burden on his family and meet the medical requirements of a sick family member.

The Airman, from the 21st Communications Squadron, said the response was overwhelming. The struggle his family was going through began about a year ago when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. She went through treatment, including chemotherapy and radiation, and all seemed back on track.

Throughout the process of treatment, the Airman’s wife didn’t feel well enough to continue work on her passion project of rescuing pets, mostly cats. She had been running a pet rescue out of their home for several years, and enjoyed taking care of them and finding deserving homes for them in the community.

The process required her to go out and meet prospective adoptive pet parents, do home inspections, amongst other things, to ensure the cats were going to a good home, the Airman said. Before the cancer, they were able get out and find new homes for the cats, which kept the number of animals in the house manageable. When the wife was diagnosed with cancer the first time and she no longer had the strength or energy to continue, they were not able to find homes and keep the number of cats under control.

In June 2016, she got sick again and discovered she had stage four cervical cancer and had masses on her lungs. The ability to take care of herself, much less foster pets, decreased. As a result, the Airman said the quality of the carpet suffered, even more than normal wear and tear of facilitating a pet rescue operation.

“I had been wanting new floor for years,” he said. “Once she was diagnosed with stage four cancer, we felt that if she was going to come back home (from the hospital), it was imperative that the floors not be so damaged.”

During a home visit from their first sergeant, the Airman said he was asked what they needed help with. Initially he said nothing, but then asked if there was anything that could be done about the floors, to which Master Sgt. Adaliz Lagueux, 21st CS first sergeant, said she would do her best to assist them.

“Once I spoke with the family, I knew the Airman & Family Readiness Center should be my first stop,” she said. “I spoke with the team there and discussed the family’s needs. Master Sgt. Jonathan Gamer, from the A&FRC, told me I should speak with the Air Force Aid Society regarding the floors.”

The Airman needed to get estimates and do a little research, but secured a grant from the AFAS to purchase the flooring for his house. Lagueux said that while the Airman got the supplies he needed, she wanted to get volunteers to help install the flooring as well. A call was sent out to the Airman’s unit and the Peterson First Sergeant Council.

“We had an abundance of volunteers, 16 total, from Team Pete,” Lagueux said. “Staff Sgt. (Steven) Price, from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron structures shop was lead on the project. He coordinated the dates with the member, did a site survey prior to the project and led the team during the installation.”

The morning dawned in November with Airmen bundled in hooded sweatshirts, worn jeans and boots, ready to tackle the two-day job. Some donned knee-pads, some unloaded saws and other tools from the truck, while others began to carry the new flooring into the house.

A safety brief was given to ensure no one was injured and the game plan was laid out for the day. No time was wasted splitting up work between rooms and laying down the first pieces of flooring.

The team put in 17 hours between the two days and broke only for lunch, Lagueux said. The husband stayed to the side and conversed with the volunteers as they laid each piece. He said it was the most excited he’s been since his wife’s diagnosis.

“It’s hard to put into words the kind of appreciation you feel for something like that,” the Airman said. “One way or another, I would have gotten something done with the floors, but it may have been just as basic or as simple as leaving the subflooring and painting it, and calling it a day for a while.”

From the moment the first contact was made between the Airman and the first sergeants, Lagueux said there was an outpouring of support, caring and a genuine want to assist the family in any way possible. There were many people and agencies who stepped in to make it possible for the family to get assistance.

“Having the new floors will allow this family to focus on healing,” Lagueux said. “They have already been through so much as a family and were so concerned about the health effects the old floors were going to have on the spouse’s illness. With this being taken care of, they can focus their time on being a family. This has impacted their quality of life tremendously.”

For the Airman, he said the best part of the whole process was bringing his wife home from the hospital and she saw what the military did for their family. She was immensely appreciative and even cried a little bit.

“It’s nice to know there are people willing to help you do a little better for yourself than what you can do for yourself, in this case probably much better,” he said. “Now my house looks like a home.”