Airmen gathered outside of the 56th Security Forces Military Working Dogs section at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.
They stood by conversing among themselves as a bus pulled up. Smiling children departed the bus. The Airmen gathered outside stepped forward to greet them and begin what would be called a “Day of Hope.”
Airmen from the 56th Fighter Wing teamed up with children from Childhelp, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse, neglect and at-risk children, to mentor and inspire them during a visit to Luke Air Force Base June 12.
“We’re calling this event the ‘Day of Hope’ for a good reason,” said Jerold Haupt, 56th SFS chief of standardization and evaluations. “Our goal is for these kids to depart at the end of the day a little more optimistic and hopeful for a brighter future.”
Each child paired up with an Airman and spent the day attending various planned events. Places included a tour of the Military Working Dog kennels, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Fire and Emergency Services, the Air Traffic Control tower and the 62nd Fighter Squadron.
This event gave Airmen at Luke a chance to be a wingmen for children who never really had one.
“Because we’re able to put our young Airmen and NCOs in a position of being a role model to children that have been abused, neglected, and otherwise traumatized, we’re able to give these kids a day of encouragement, hope and reassure them that better days are ahead,” Haupt said. “It’s a privilege to give a child a very good day, especially a child that has seen so few of them.”
One Airman saw himself in the shoes of these children and was inspired to help.
“I did this for the kids, to support what they are going through,” said Technical Sgt. Maury Warr, 56th SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of standardization and evaluations. “It means a lot to be a mentor coming from my background. I can put myself in their shoes, and now that I’m older, I want to come back and show these kids that somebody supports them.
Although Airmen from the 56th SFS have partnered with Childhelp for the past 14 years through an annual Christmas toy and back-to-school supply drives, the “Day of Hope” took the efforts of Thunderbolts from across the wing to happen.
“Everyone contacted has been very enthusiastic to do everything possible to ensure these kids have the best day imaginable,” Haupt said.
Haupt and others are hoping that if all goes well that this will become an annual event, building relationships between Airmen at Luke and children in need.
“We have so many young role models across our wing, and so many kids across the valley that are desperately in need of positive mentorship,” Haupt said. “I would encourage people to find ways of putting their life experiences and talents to use in helping troubled children. They really do need us.”