08/07/11 — Volunteers, wing honor 916th airmen, families

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Volunteers, wing honor 916th airmen, families

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 7, 2011 12:24 AM

Parker Mann would not be defeated.

In his mind, he had accomplished his mission -- firing a ball, successfully, at the target on a dunk tank set up on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base -- and yet the Air Force officer seated just above the water remained dry.

It just didn't seem fair.

So with both hands extended, the 5-year-old walked toward the large, yellow button and gave it a slap -- submerging the man who, moments before, believed he had claimed victory over the little boy.

Parker, one of hundreds of children who has a parent in the 916th Air Refueling Wing, was among those who attended an event meant to honor the sacrifices made by local Reservists and their families as the war in Afghanistan -- and conflicts around the world -- rage on.

But for those families that braved the heat to take in activities, food and fellowship, the several-hour experience was more of an escape from the reality of the modern Air Force Reserve than a reminder of it.

For 6-year-old Porter Reynolds, it was a chance to take on a climbing wall.

And for others, it was an opportunity to transform, via face paint, into their favorite animal before eating free popcorn and bouncing in an inflatable.

916th Commander Col. Randall Ogden characterized the scene as "the most incredible" Reservist Family Day he had ever seen.

But it never would have been, he said, without the help of members of the Goldsboro and Wayne County communities who took it upon themselves to provide the manpower, food and festivities on display Saturday.

Nearly 100 members of the Whitley Church congregation -- decked out in T-shirts that read, "Serving those who serve" -- decided, this year, to take on jobs typically assigned to members of the wing.

It was their way, 916th Public Affairs Chief Maj. Shannon Mann said, of ensuring all locally stationed Reservists got to experience a "thank you."

Ogden said he and the airmen under his command were humbled by their offering.

"What incredible community support," he said. "Bless you guys. You've blessed us."

But the colonel could not help but note that some of his comrades were missing.

He knows all too well -- having sent many of them out the door -- that members of the wing's Security Forces Squadron, Operations Group and Aerospace Medicine Squadron are currently deployed across the world.

So he reminded those in attendance just how much their sacrifices are appreciated.

"Trust me, they are doing great things," he said.

And he asked that, even as little boys and girls indulged in a day meant for them, those family members on hand recognize their many efforts.

"We have three conflicts going on and your airmen have stepped up," he said. "Each one of you should be very proud of your service member.

"But remember, we couldn't do all that we do without great, great families."