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U.S. Air Force

Airmen urge service members to lean on fellow ‘wingmen’ for suicide prevention

in News/military
2017

As the U.S. Air Force reports that suicides among airmen have increased in 2019, two women serving at Cheyenne’s F.E. Warren Air Force Base are urging service members to rely on their “wingmen” for help when they are hurting.

Senior Airman Abbigayle Williams and First Class Airman Aiesha Bass are on a mission to stop service members from taking their own lives. Both encouraged their fellow members of the military to turn to one of their fellow service members for help.

“That wingman concept, it’s a good thing,” Bass said. “Somebody needs somebody to lean on. Whether you’ve got one wingman or you’ve got a whole 15 females in here you’ve never seen a day in your life. But they’re there.”

Bass, a former juvenile supervision officer, said providing help can be as simple as listening.

“If you don’t want me to say anything back, you just want to talk, I’m going to listen to you,” she said.

Williams encouraged troubled service members to approach their fellow airmen.

“Stop me on the road,” she said. “I may not know you, but if you need someone to vent to, if you just want someone to cook you food … then I will definitely cook a meal for any airman or anyone else who needs it. Sometimes, you just need to sit down and talk.”

Encouraging someone to do something to lift their spirits also helps, Bass said.

“If they’re not thinking positive, try to help them think positive,” she said. “Try to come up with something to do, especially if someone just sits in a room and doesn’t get out much, (ask them) ‘You want to get out to eat, you want to go walk in the park, you want to go just do something simple just to get you out of this gloomy mood.’”

Thunderbirds appear in the sky over Cheyenne for 66th time

in Community/military/arts and culture
1697

The U.S. Air Force precision flying team the Thunderbirds took to the skies over Cheyenne for the 66th time on Wednesday for its annual demonstration of high-speed formation flying.

The Thunderbirds have appeared at every Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo since 1953, with pilots flying their F-16 Fighting Falcons only feet from each other as they put the aircraft through various aerobatic maneuvers such as loops.

Viewers pack F.E. Warren Air Force Base to watch the show and line up on either side of Interstate 25 near the base to get a good look at the performance.

The Air Force describes the Thunderbird team as combining years of training and experience with an “attitude of excellence.”

‘Veterans Portrait Project’ photographer visits Cody

in Community/military
1649

A U.S. Air Force veteran who is traveling the country to photograph veterans stopped in Cody recently to add several portraits to her collection.

Stacey Pearsall, a former combat photographer, was in Cody this week to add Wyoming veterans to the “Veterans Portrait Project,” a program she launched in 2008 while recuperating from injuries she suffered in Iraq.

Pearsall has been photographing veterans for more than 11 years, traveling to 35 states on the way to her goal of taking pictures of veterans in all 50 states by November of this year. Her work has hung in the Smithsonian, the Pentagon and at Arlington National Cemetery.

The project has helped with Pearsall’s healing process from her injuries, she said.

“It’s been cathartic, both physically and emotionally,” she said. “The doctors said I couldn’t do photography any more, but here I am 11 years later, still doing it, still telling stories and on my own terms.”

So far, Pearsall has taken pictures of more than 7,500 veterans from all branches of the military.

Among her subjects in Cody were Sandy and Jim Pederson, both former master chiefs in the U.S. Navy, who endorsed Pearsall’s project.

“I think it’s important that veterans tell their story,” said Sandy Pederson. “No matter what war, or if they never were in combat, that they tell their story for future generations.”

“They need to know what we went through, both good and bad, and share some of our stories with these young people,” said Jim Pederson. “Some of them, unfortunately, have only been in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq. They’ve never had a chance, like we have, to stay in the military, make a career and see the world.”

Bob Richard, a historian in Cody, agreed with the Pedersons.

“It’s the history that’s so important, for everybody to be aware of what has happened in the past,” he said. “And we build on the past for the future.”

Pearsall said her project has been a journey of discovery.

“Getting to know my own veteran community a lot better and in the process also educating those who have never served,” she said. “To be able to continue to keep the veterans’ dialog in the forefront of people’s minds and those issues that impact us.”

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