Give back to our community

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

The approaching holiday season provides a great opportunity to stop and consider all we have been given.

Most of us enjoy a steady paycheck, good health and supportive families. It is good to enjoy and celebrate these blessings.

At the same time, it’s also worthy of our time to remember there are those in the community, and inside the Columbus Air Force Base gate, who could use a little encouragement. 

Many of us enjoy opportunities to give back.  After reflecting on, and being thankful for what we’ve been given, it only seems right to look for ways we can help others in the same way we’ve been helped. I’m proud to be part of a team, who like you, seeks these opportunities. The 43rd Flying Training Squadron, the fabulous Firebirds, is a classic associate reserve squadron here at Columbus AFB.

Except for one or two members, all of the Firebirds have an active duty heritage. At the same time, we are unique in that, unlike the active duty, we tend to stay put for the long term. As a result, the Firebirds build deep bonds with the local and extended community.  

Many of our reservists are FedEx pilots and reside in the Memphis, Tennessee, area. As a result, we’ve built close ties with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude specializes in treating childhood who have life-threatening diseases, especially cancer. What makes them unique is patients are not charged for care. Instead, St. Jude funds their $2.2 million-per-day budget primarily through generous donors.

In the last two years, members of our squadron have raised over $80,000 in support of St. Jude. This includes getting sponsors for marathons, selling raffle tickets and Christmas ornaments, as well as an annual squadron-wide corn-hole tournament. Our partnership with St. Jude not only helps fund their research and care, it also serves as means to increase unit morale and cohesiveness.

A second and more recent community opportunity was participation with the Ageless Aviation Dreams Foundation. Several members of the 43rd FTS and many more from the 14th Flying Training Wing joined the non-profit foundation at the Golden Region Triangle airport in October of this year.

The foundation’s goal is to honor senior veterans from all U.S. branches by providing free Dream Flights in vintage Boeing Stearman biplanes. Airmen from our base congregated with the foundation pilots and the senior veterans to share the common bond of military service and hear veteran stories. As evidenced by the numerous, overwhelming expressions of thanks, the mere presence of our Airmen truly honored these heroes in the twilight of their lives.

I personally had the honor of taking the founder of AADF, Mr. Daryl Fisher, for a flight in the T-38. Though a highly accomplished pilot, it was his first flight in a military aircraft. The Firebirds will seek to continue our relationship with the AADF and look forward to the next time we can help as they honor our veterans.

These are only two opportunities, there are countless more. The Firebirds are also involved in education foundations, coaching, and volunteer work at Palmer Home. My hope in sharing this is two-fold. First, reflect on what we’ve been given and be thankful for it. Second, look for an opportunity to give back and take great joy in helping others in our community who could benefit from it.