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How the Air Force Assistance Fund helped me

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. ReShard Wagstaff
  • 319th Missile Squadron ICBM deputy missile combat crew commander
In 2008, I graduated college, married the love of my life, and commissioned into the world's greatest Air Force -- Life was great! Early that December, I went on Christmas leave for the first time before I began my training. My family means the world to me and since they supported and guided me through my college years, I felt it was my responsibility to show them just how much I appreciated them. So I went out and bought them all gifts I knew they would enjoy (no matter the cost) because I figured I would save up again when I got home, or at least I thought.

A few weeks before Christmas I went to the emergency room for an extreme pain in my side, long story short, I had pulmonary embolisms (blood clots) and was only a few days away from one breaking off and killing me. Though I was far from 100 percent, the doctors decided to release me for Christmas, a nice gesture at the time; but little did I know a real disaster was around the corner. I finally made it back home in late January, began my rehabilitation and prepped myself to meet a medical board.

A few months went by, my rehabilitation ended, and I found out I made it through the medical board; clearing me to finally begin training. I thought things were really looking up for me, until the early morning of June 21 (Fathers Day), when I received the worst telephone call of my life ... my sister Grace had passed away. My world felt like it was crashing down; I used up all my savings when I had to stay in the hospital, and I didn't have enough money to get home ... I didn't know what to do.

Luckily I had some excellent NCOs who pointed me in the direction of the Airman and Family Readiness Center, where I was able to get an interest free loan, and the same day I had a plane ticket home.

If it wasn't for Airmen such as you, who so generously donated to the Air Force Assistance Fund campaign, I never would have made it to my sister's funeral in time. And, if you have never met someone who has used the AFAF, I am Lt. ReShard Wagstaff, and this was how the AFAF helped me. If this story helps just one Airman in need, it has served its purpose.

The AFAF offers numerous programs ranging from emergency travel and funeral expenses, to educational grants and child care for permanent-change-of-station moves for both active-duty and retired members. More than 40,000 Air Force members and their families were helped with nearly $18 million in assistance last year.

So I ask you, today when your AFAF representative comes around, don't run from or try to avoid them, but look into your heart and think of that young Airman in need. Who knows, it could be you one day needing their help.