Archive for August 2015

August 30, 2015

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August 25, 2015

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Pilot for a Day:

169th Fighter Wing

McENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C.

Six-year-old Declan Alexander was recently honored as a Swamp Fox Pilot for a Day by the 169th Fighter Wing here, receiving a hero’s welcome from the moment he arrived on base.

Declan and his father Brian Alexander were guests of the South Carolina Air National Guard Aug. 15, as part of the Pilot for a Day program, which allows children with disadvantages or debilitating illnesses to experience the life of a fighter pilot.

“Pilot for a Day allows us to reach out to the community, make community bonds and make a difference in someone’s life,” said 1st Lt. Cody May, a fighter pilot assigned to the 157th Fighter Squadron and Declan’s host for the day.

The tour, led by May, began with Declan receiving a custom pilot’s flight suit from the aircrew flight equipment shop. He was later escorted to the end of the runway to watch F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft land and was greeted with thumbs-up and well wishes from the airmen he met on base.

Lifetime Memories

“It is hard to express how cool it is to have everyone take time out of their day to set all this up and show us around and create lasting memories,” Brian Alexander said. “It really is an amazing experience. There really are not words to express how much of a big deal this is for him and for us.”

Declan displayed a big smile while sitting in the cockpit of an F-16 bearing his name on the side. He also enjoyed spraying the water cannon from McEntire’s largest fire truck while touring the fire department, Brian Alexander said.

“Getting to ride in a fire truck and getting to sit in a fighter jet are two things you don’t ever get to do,” he said. “Those were definitely a ton of fun and put a smile on his face.”

The Pilot for a Day program helps a child and the child’s family to gain a memory of a lifetime, and is just as important to the Swamp Fox family who welcomed the young hero.

May said the most important part of the Pilot for a Day program is it has the ability to take a family’s mind off of an illness by allowing them to experience something that very few people will ever get to experience.

“I really enjoyed being able to make a difference in someone’s life,” he added.

The 169th Fighter Wing has supported the Pilot for a Day program for nearly two decades.

In the above picture, Declan Alexander receives a custom nameplate during his time as Pilot for a Day at McEntire Joint National Guard Base in Eastover, S.C., Aug. 15, 2015. South Carolina Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Ashleigh Pavelek.

August 6, 2015

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Face of Defense: Soldier Vows to Never Quit

By Robert A. Whetstone Brooke Army Medical Center

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Aug. 5, 2015 – When Army Pfc. Gustavo Moreno recited the oath of enlistment, he knew he was charged to defend his country against all enemies. What he didn’t know is that shortly after completing basic combat training, he’d be fighting a different enemy altogether.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Moreno, a self-confessed basketball junkie and Spurs fanatic, found himself in a very grown-up situation during his senior year of high school: He was going to be a father.

Moreno said he knew he had to do something as soon as possible. He had to step up and be there for his then-girlfriend and now-wife, Valerie Hernandez, and their daughter, Avalee

While Hernandez remained home, Moreno went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training.“I went in October 2013 and didn’t come back till December,” Moreno said. After a brief trip home following basic training, Moreno returned to Fort Sill in January 2014 for advanced individual training.

Warning Signs

“I was doing [physical training]. I was really fit,” Moreno said. “I ran a 13:52 2-mile, did 80 push-ups in 2 minutes, and something like 78 sit-ups in 2 minutes. And all of a sudden, I started losing my breath. I’d get dizzy.”

While he was lying on the top bunk bed and talking to Hernandez on the phone, Moreno said he recalls feeling nauseated and dizzy, and then blacking out. “I fell off the bed, went downstairs and was taken to the hospital,” he said. “At first they thought it was bronchitis because I had a cough and it was hard to swallow.” It turns out Moreno had a 14-centimeter mass compressing his trachea.

Moreno was diagnosed with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, or ALL, a rare subtype of adult non-Hodgkin cancer, commonly treated with intensive chemotherapy.

When Moreno was diagnosed, he said, “I was laughing, like I was in shock. I knew what cancer was, but I didn’t know what [this] was, especially when it comes to blood cells and all of that.”

ALL is a type of blood cancer. It is the most aggressive leukemia in adults. ALL starts from white blood cells in the bone marrow and develops from cells called lymphocytes. It invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs. Without treatment, it can be fatal in a few short months.

According to the National Marrow Donor Program website, someone is diagnosed with a type of blood cancer every three minutes. It can happen to anyone at any time.

‘Keep on Fighting, Every Day’

Moreno had the task of calling his wife to break the news to her. He said her father had passed away three years prior, and the thought of losing him, with their new daughter being so young, was difficult.

“I’m not going to leave them,” Moreno said. “I’m going to keep on fighting, every day.”

After the diagnosis, Moreno returned home to San Antonio and Brooke Army Medical Center to begin his chemotherapy. After one year of intensive treatment, he had a complete response and appeared to be free of cancer. Things were going well as he continued on low intensity therapy, but Moreno experienced a setback — the mass returned and spread to his blood.

He was referred to the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston for therapy and entered into a clinical trial with an investigational drug. When he did not respond, he returned to San Antonio Military Medical Center for treatment.

A bone marrow transplant, also called a stem cell transplant, is a procedure that infuses healthy cells, called stem cells, into your body to replace damaged or diseased bone marrow. Moreno is now reaching this point in his battle.

Today, doctors are controlling Moreno’s cancer with radiation and chemotherapy. “I’m hoping to get into remission enough to where I can still get the transplant,” Moreno said.

Bone Marrow Donors Needed

Donor awareness is extremely important to Moreno and Hernandez — especially since minorities, particularly Hispanics, make up less than 10 percent of donors on the national registry.

“Even if I don’t find a match, it’s just something that needs to be out there, and more people need to hear about it,” Moreno said. “More minorities and Hispanics need to join the registry.”

“There are a lot of people who think that it hurts, so they don’t donate,” Hernandez said. “When they hear, ‘bone marrow transplant,’ they think ‘I’m going to be stuck with needles,'” Moreno said. “It’s just like donating blood. Honestly, you’re just giving of yourself to someone else, that way they can fight off the infection with your good cells. They might hurt a little bit, but they don’t see everything we go through.”

Doctors gave Moreno a few months to live, but he still has hope. “There is always hope,” Moreno said emphatically. “Even if the doctors say one thing, God has the last word.”

How to Become a Donor

Hope can come in the form of myriad organizations working tirelessly to help people like Moreno. One organization, the C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program — also known as Salute to Life, provides assistance to those individuals seeking to join the national registry of volunteer marrow and stem cell donors.

Service members, military retirees and Defense Department civilian personnel who are between the ages of 18 and 60 and of good health can join by completing a simple cheek swab. A list of installation-based recruitment drives, walk-in sites, and information about requesting individual registration kits is available at https://www.salutetolife.org.

“Approximately 70 percent of patients are unable to find a match within their own families and must turn to the network of volunteer donors for help,” said Kathryn Branstad, donor quality and retention manager for the C.W. Bill Young DoD Marrow Donor Program.

“Our donors are amazing individuals, willing to temporarily disrupt their daily lives and give of themselves in a most profound manner in order to offer hope to someone they’ve never even met,” she said.

Hope also comes from a solid support system. “I’m glad I was born and raised here [in San Antonio],” said Moreno. “I have all my family here. My wife’s family is here, and that helps out a lot.

“The nurses and staff up there in 5T [the San Antonio Military Medical Center Bone Marrow Unit and Outpatient Clinic], they’re great,” he added. “They don’t just look at you like a cancer patient — they look at you like a friend.”

True to the Soldier’s Creed, Moreno’s message to those who are in the same situation as he is to “never quit.” And he has a message for those who don’t know anything about his fight: “This is really important, I just want you to hear me, and please pay attention. You can save somebody’s life.”

Related Sites: National Marrow Donor Program C.W. Bill Young Department of Defense Marrow Donor Program Brooke Army Medical Center Fort Sam Houston

U.S. Postal Service to unveil Coast Guard commemorative stamp in Newport, R.I.

August 4, 2015

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BOSTON —The commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and the U.S. Postal Service will be unveiling a special edition stamp commemorating the Coast Guard’s 225th birthday.

The ceremony will take place Friday appx. 10:30 a.m. August 7 at the Oliver Hazard Perry Pier at Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I.

The Eagle will be open to the public for tours at approximately 12 p.m. following the commemorative stamp unveiling ceremony.

In the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place in the visitor center across from the pier.  

In Newport, the Eagle will be open for free public tours:

  * Friday from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

  * Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  * Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Interested media should contact public affairs Boston at (617) 223-8515 or (617) 717-9609 by 2 p.m. August 6. to attend stamp unveiling or   riding in to Newport onboard the ship.

Follow the Coast Guard Cutter Barque Eagle on her journey: https://www.facebook.com/CoastGuardCutterEagle

View the Coast Guard stamp here: http://uspsstamps.com/stamps/united-states-coast-guard