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Global Strike family helps one of its own

  • Published
  • By Carla Pampe
  • Air Force Global Strike Command
After eight years on active duty herself and nearly 24 years as a military spouse, Kellie Velasquez is no stranger to the strength of the military family. That family bond was reinforced for her recently, however, during a time of personal struggle.

Kellie, whose husband, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Velasquez, works in Air Force Global Strike Command's A 4/7 logistics, installations and mission support directorate, is a breast cancer survivor who now suffers from osteoarthritis in her knees as a complication from chemotherapy. The couple and their two youngest children, 17 and 11, were living in a two-story house on base, and the constant movement up and down the stairs became painful for Kellie.

"I was slipping constantly and my knees were locking up," she said. "My doctor said I needed to move to a one-story house."

The Velasquez's worked with base housing, who gave them the next available one-story house. That just happened to be two weeks after Velasquez left for a 365-day deployment.

"My husband offered to have some people come and help me, but I said I would be fine to do it myself, because that's what military wives do," Kellie said. "He was so worried about me, because of my knees, but I promised him that I would hire some Airmen to do all the work."

That's when Terri Stansell, wife of Col. Clifford Stansell, also with the A 4/7 directorate, got involved.

"I am a key spouse for A 4/7. I knew Kellie's husband was going on a 365-day deployment, and made a note to check on her," she said. "About two weeks after her husband left, I was on my computer, and suddenly I had the urge to call. When I called her, I found out about the move, and that she was going to move herself, because she just didn't want to ask for help!"

Kellie said she feels uncomfortable asking for help from others because of all the help and support she received during her bout with cancer.

"I don't want to ask unless I absolutely need it," she said. "In addition, when he returns from deployment, my husband will be in another unit, so I didn't feel it was right to ask Global Strike for help."

Kellie initially tried to refuse the offer of help, but Stansell wouldn't take no for an answer. She enlisted the help of her husband, who contacted the members of Velasquez's unit at Global Strike.

"Before I got home, I got another phone call from someone who worked with my husband," Kellie said. "He asked if he could come over and talk to me. He said, 'at 3 p.m. Friday when you get off work, we're going to move it all for you.'

"I said 'that's just too much. I don't want everybody to get off work on a Friday and have to come and do this,'" she added. "But, on Friday I got home and there were people waiting for me outside. I ran upstairs to get changed, and when I came downstairs, there were like 12 people. I was just totally shocked. I couldn't imagine so many people helping."

Before Kellie could even organize her thoughts, the volunteers were packing and had a plan.

"We have moved 16 times, and this was like nothing I ever saw. They had my house packed between 3 and 5. At 5 o'clock we were on our way to the other house," she said. "Before 10 o'clock they had every bed put together, every TV in place and put together, and they still asked what they could do to help.... It was amazing. I love the Air Force.

"Everyone I thanked and everybody I hugged said 'it was nothing, your husband would have done this for anybody,'" Kellie said. "They did this for my husband, and that makes me even more proud just to see how much he is respected and loved. I know it gave him peace of mind knowing that they didn't take no for an answer from me."

Stansell said providing support to AFGSC spouses no matter what the circumstances is what the key spouse program is all about.

"Had I not made that call, she would have had to do this all by herself. It was just incredible to be a part of," she said, "and, it allowed her husband to do his job and not have to worry about Kellie and the kids trying to make the move by themselves. I've been part of the Air Force family for a long time, and seen people come together for a lot of things, but this was just amazing."

Kellie and her children are now all settled in their new home, and she said her quality of life is so much better.

"I'm still going to physical therapy, and I'm much better - the knee isn't locking up anymore," she said. "I was in a lot of pain, and I'm feeling so much better - I'm not having to lie down and prop it up and not be able to take care of the kids."

Kellie said she doesn't have the words to express her gratitude to those who came and helped her.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you and God bless you," she said. "If I could keep hugging everyone, I would.

"This is the first time in a long time that people have taken care of us as a family. As you go up in rank, they just expect that you've done it before," she added. "It's true, I have, but here I needed help, but I didn't want to ask. They didn't forget me."

Kellie said this experience has cemented her love and respect for the people of Global Strike Command.

"Once a Global Strikette, always a Global Strikette," she said. "It's amazing how much Global Strike is a family. This just sealed the deal."