Air Guardsmen Give Back To Old Guard

By the Staff Sgt. Barbara Harbison, 108 ARW/PA

The chance to give something back to the community has sparked the New Jersey Air National Guard to bring smiles and friendship.

Ten years ago, Chief Master Sgt. Bob Bartleson, 108th Air Refueling Wing’s Logistic Support Flight supervisor contacted the volunteer coordinator at the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home at Vineland to find out what they could do to help. The answer was simple; come and visit.

Master Sgt. Cheryl Adler who works in customer service for the 108th Logistics Flight, smiles when she talks about the visiting the veterans at the home. “I learn so much when I go down there and their faces express so much when they realize they are not forgotten.”

“It just feels good to help," stated Chief Master Sgt. Russell Fenton, 177th Fighter Wing. A call to the 177th brought more volunteers feeling the rewards of giving to the veterans.

New Jersey Air Guardsmen contribute to the veterans in many ways. Each December, the two wings get together to play “Santa.” They have taken up collections in the wings and brought gifts to the veterans of televisions, VCRs, along with books, and just spending time visiting with the veterans.

Bartleson speaks of the time a couple years ago when the bus pulled up and the vets got off the bus. One of the women from the unit came running up to greet her father who lived at Vineland. “That was pretty close to home,” he said.

While all three admit it isn’t hard to get volunteers for the visits, they are always on the lookout for more people to join in the fun. As Master Sgt. Cheryl Adler says, “They’re part of our family.”