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NEWS | April 1, 2015

Airmen help out in a time of need

By Trisha Gallaway Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

When good friends of the 17th Airlift Squadron's unit training manager were in need, she wasted no time in rounding up a few good Airmen to help.

In September 2014 Valerie Singley's friends Scott and Tina Fox had their world completely turned upside down. Scott was diagnosed with cancer and it was spreading fast. His doctors felt it was best for him to undergo an aggressive treatment schedule of radiation and chemotherapy.

Fast forward five months, the aggressive treatment had been successful and Scott was able to undergo surgery to remove the cancer. However, the treatments had already taken a physical toll on his body. 

One evening Singley was bringing groceries to the Fox's and noticed their yard needed tending.

"Tina enjoys working in the yard but Scott's treatments were numerous which didn't leave her with much time to do yard work," Singley said.

With Scott on the mend from the treatments and surgery, Tina, a math teacher at Porter-Gaud School, in Charleston, S.C., became her husband's full time caregiver, leaving yard work low on the list of priorities.  

"Life had been a whirlwind since my husband's cancer diagnosis in September. Between his doctor's appointments, work, and the fact that the only days that I had time to spare, the ground was soaked with rain, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed," said Tina. "The surgery took place in January, and every spare moment was spent at the hospital. Scott was released to come home on the 16th and he was pretty much bedridden. I was his full time caregiver and was still in constant communication with school, keeping the substitute teacher updated with lesson plans and grading the student work."

Knowing that Tina would never ask her for help, Singley took it upon herself to get in touch with an Airman from the squadron.

Earlier in the week, Senior Airman Amanda Fields, 17th AS loadmaster, had texted Singley asking if she knew of any volunteer opportunities that she and a few other Airmen could take advantage of during the Martin Luther King. Jr., holiday. Remembering this exchange of texts, Singley reached out to Fields. 

"I remembered Amanda's text so I responded asking if they would want to take on this project," said Singley. "She was quick to answer with questions. Not questions to decide if they wanted to do the project but questions about how they could make it happen.  She rounded up a team and they met me at the Fox's house."

The team of Airmen included Senior Airman Daniel Paige, 15th Airlift Squadron loadmaster; Senior Airman Timothy Baker, 17th AS loadmaster; Senior Airman Logan Meadows, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; and Senior Airman Amanda Cartwright, 628th Medical Group. 

"Val told me about her friend's situation and their story hit close to home," said Fields. "My family is going through some tough times and we have a lot of friends and family helping us all to get by, so I wanted to pay it forward in a sense and help this family out."

Singley made sure she arrived at the Fox home before the team of Airmen did.

"I arrived at the Fox's house before the crew arrived so that I could warn them there would be strangers in the yard," said Singley. "When I told Tina that some Airmen were coming to rake the yard she started to cry. She admitted that she had wanted to ask for some help to do the yard but didn't want to bother anyone." 

The Airmen got to work and three and-a-half hours later they had completed their mission. The Airmen had bagged 50 bags of yard clippings, removed branches from the roof of the house and even did a little organizing in the Fox's garage.

This small act of kindness from five Airmen lifted a huge weight off the Fox's shoulders. 

"[The Airmen] were truly a blessing," said Tina. "The leaves in the yard were bothering me and, I'm sure, the neighbors but I had too many other things on my plate. I had no idea they were coming. When Val showed up at my door, I was completely overwhelmed. They helped with the yard work and organized the garage a bit so that it was more usable." 

Cartwright didn't have to be asked twice to help out.

"My granddad recently passed from cancer and he loved being outside and doing yard work," she said. "So many people pitched in when his health was declining and I know it made him happy. I wanted to make someone else feel the same way."

With a long road to recovery, Scott, who before the surgery was employed by Johnson Controls as an Operation and Maintenance Level 3 technician, recognized that it would be a while before he would be back to his old self.    

"[The Airmen] did a lot of things that we weren't able to get done ourselves," he said. "Most 44 year old men (and women) wouldn't need to ask for help with basic yard work. The fact that these Airmen came out unasked to do yard work and ended up doing so much more is just amazing."

"It is heartwarming to see our young Airmen reaching out to find ways to help within the community," said Singley. "Remember, there are ways to help in the community every day.  If the project is too big for you, ask others to chip in. That's what Amanda did, after finding out the size of the yard, she knew it was too much for just her and Tim. She reached out and found three others who were willing to spend an afternoon helping neighbors.