Assistance fund calmed family's storm

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Austin M. May
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
I don't know what I hate more: asking to borrow money, or being in a situation where I have to.

In instances where I've had to borrow, it's always been the last resort. I do my best to save for things I want and put aside for emergencies, but I found out the hard way what so many people already told me - bad things happen when you least expect them.

Near the end of summer, 2006, I was a newlywed who had just moved into a new house and started Airman Leadership School. My wife had just begun working at a new job, and the future was looking bright.

But things change.

For as long as I live I don't think I'll ever forget the procession of one-sided conversations I heard as my wife, getting more and more flustered by the second, learned from her family that her mother had gone missing while driving home on the long stretch of road between Anchorage and Homer, Alaska. It's a road that winds through some of the most unforgiving wilderness I have personally seen.

To say I felt helpless would be a gross understatement of fact. My guess was as good as anyone's at how the whole thing would turn out, and I had to look my new wife in her tear-filled eyes and tell her everything would be fine while every fiber of my being knew I was lying. That's not to say I didn't have hope, but hope can be a thin veil when the odds are stacked so high against you.

The thought didn't occur to me until several hours after we got the news that we would probably have to send my wife home. The realization of that fact was followed by another: we didn't have the money for a last-minute plane ticket from Texas to Alaska.

We didn't have anything close to it.

In desperation, I called my supervisor for advice. Without blinking, he had the answer, and a few hours later my wife and I were in an office discussing travel arrangements with an Air Force Aid Society representative. Two days later, she was home with her family. The worst of our fears had been realized, but she was where she needed to be.

To this day, my appreciation for what AFAS did for us is the first thing I think of when I fill out my Air Force Assistance Fund donation form. But I don't do it because I feel indebted to the organization. Debt, if anything, is the last reason I give.

My wife had been a part of the Air Force family for only three months, but that family was there for her when she needed them, and they didn't bat an eye. People with hearts bigger than their wallets had ensured that we had one less thing to worry about when the entire world came crashing down around us.

Each year, when my unit's Air Force Assistance Fund representative comes into my office for his 100 percent contact, I'm ready. I'm ready because I know what it's like to need help and not have to worry whether or not it will be there. No matter how bad the situation gets, not having the fear of "What am I going to do?" is priceless.

The sacrifice can be minimal, but the benefit will be immeasurable. Even if we've never met, we are a family, and no family member of mine will ever have to go without as long as I can provide for them. But I can't do it alone.

What can you do to support your family?