04/14/08 — Airmen offer 'home' help to spouses

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Airmen offer 'home' help to spouses

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 14, 2008 1:45 PM

Simon Wess could see it on their faces.

His offer to assist spouses of the deployed had been welcomed by smiles and sighs of relief.

You see, his wife was among the members of the 4th Fighter Wing's 335th Chiefs leaving for war.

So it seemed only fitting that he suggest other spouses call on him if they needed something.

After all, Wess is a member of the 4th, too.

And despite his status as a "spouse of the deployed," he is also a warrior -- one committed to the base's new mission, he said.

Making sure families of deployed airmen are taken care of on the home front is paramount to the success of the mission abroad, the technical sergeant said.

So with the help of his brothers and sisters in 4th Civil Engineers, Wess is making sure his comrades downrange have little to worry about back at home.

A new service is now available at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- a team of "handymen" ready 24 hours a day to respond to emergencies at the homes of the deployed.

"When I was deployed, if the hot water heater blew up or the heat quit working, my wife would just call my shop and they would send out an electrician or whatever," Wess said. "I told her squadron, the wives, that we would do the same thing for them. They were stoked about it."

Having received a favorable response, he went to CE's first sergeant, Master Sgt. Woodrow Lemon, and asked about the possibility of providing the service wing wide.

Lemon was behind the idea from day one.

"Granted, the mission is always important, but the base's No. 1 priority now is taking care of families," the first sergeant said. "Sorties, they don't matter if you're not taking care of the families."

But the program does not simply offer peace of mind to the families left behind, he said.

In fact, knowing someone "has your family's back" is critical when you are in theater, he said.

"It puts my mind at ease knowing that this program exists. Now my wife, she's independent -- very independent," Lemon said. "But this service, it's not just for her. It's for me when I am gone. Sure, it puts her at a little bit of ease knowing there is someone here to help her, but for me, more than her, it makes my life while I am over there a whole lot easier because I know they are here to take care of my family."

Those who wish to take advantage of the service can call 440-1537 or 440-3618 day or night.

And even though there are no guarantees that all the problems facing a deployed spouse can be fixed by a member of their unit, each 4th CE airman is committed to giving it his or her best effort.

"I told them, 'If you were a normal family and not a military family, and your husband was out of town and the hot water heater quit working, you would call Uncle Bill or your father-in-law and they would come and take a look," Wess said. "Well, we're kind of filling in for them."