Deployed Families Dinner important part of caring for our Airmen

Col. Jay Raymond, 21st Space Wing commander

Col. Jay Raymond, 21st Space Wing commander

PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- One of the key tenets of the 21st Space Wing mission is to develop and deploy Warrior Airmen to defend America and our Allies. In fact, there are currently 202 wing members deployed and more than 50 scheduled to depart in the next week. Likewise, there are approximately 264 other members from Peterson and Schriever AFB deployed overseas in service to our nation. 

These numbers are significant not only because they represent the front line support our units provide in the Global War on Terror, but also because they signify the number of family members that remain at home while their loved ones are deployed. This wing is committed to providing exceptional care for the families of deployed members. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it makes a world of difference for our servicemen and women to know their families are being looked after while they are thousands of miles away -- I know how much it meant to me when I was deployed. 

One of the ways we do this is through a joint 21st and 50th Space Wing sponsorship of the monthly Deployed Families Dinner. This event, which takes place the first Friday of every month, offers an opportunity for the family members of deployed Airmen to get together over dinner and share their stories with one another in a relaxed setting. It also allows senior leaders, unit commanders, first sergeants and other members of their respective units to recognize and thank family members for their contributions. This type of contact is vital in helping family members deal with what can be a very difficult time. I'm extremely proud to be associated with such an event and, in my opinion, we do this better than anyone in the Air Force. 

On Jan. 4, as a result of the recent surge of Team Peterson and Schriever deployments, the Deployed Families Dinner enjoyed one of the largest turnouts in its history with well over 200 family members in attendance. Besides the large number of participants, the dinner was also memorable due to the fact that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr., Gen. and Mrs. C. Robert Kehler, Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Thomas Deppe and Maj. Gen. and Mrs. Paul Sullivan took time from their busy schedules to attend the event. 

In addition to thanking our family members and recent deployment returnees for their service and sacrifice, the governor had recently returned from a trip to Iraq and Afghanistan and remarked that he saw firsthand the positive impact programs such as the Deployed Families Dinner are having on the morale of deployed Airmen. Governor Ritter also mentioned the family members of deployed Airmen provide a public service in their own way and are owed an enormous gratitude for what they do. I couldn't agree more and this is one of the reasons I believe our Deployed Family Dinners are so important. 

I'd like to extend my personal thanks to all those who made Friday's dinner such a resounding success. From the Pikes Peak Top Three and Peterson and Schriever AFB Diamond Councils, all the way to the Defense Commissary Agency and AAFES, there are a number of valuable contributors who make this an outstanding event each and every month. The contributions of Chap. (1st Lt.) Ron Feeser, the entire 21st SW protocol team, the Air Force Academy Band and Air Force Space Command were also very important in the success of last week's event. 

A special thanks goes out to Master Sgt. Philip York as the project officer and emcee. His hard work and dedication in putting the pieces together for this event did not go unnoticed. Finally, I'd like to thank the myriad of sponsors who continue to provide such great raffle prizes for those family members in attendance. At this past dinner alone, we gave away a high definition flat screen television, a motorized scooter and a mountain bike. 

I encourage all deployed family members to participate in this wonderful dinner. It truly is a great time of fellowship and brings us together not only as a community, but also as an Air Force family.