The bright and festive event was held for Walter Reed National Medical Center pediatric oncology patients and their families to celebrate the holiday season.
"The importance of this day, is for the patients not having to think about anything but being a kid," said Janet Grampp, the JBA Fisher House manager and coordinator of the event. "They don't have to think about IVs or chemo. For this snapshot in time, they are just kids, having a great time."
PCFC is a non-profit organization and support group for families who are receiving treatment, or have previously received treatment at Walter Reed. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for children with cancer and to provide support for their families.
"My favorite part of this event is always seeing the smile on the children's face as they're running around," said 1st Sgt. Stormy Knowles, Troop Command South Alpha Company. "A lot of times when it comes to childhood cancer, they don't get an opportunity to be a kid."
The PCFC Secretary, Knowles' son was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 2. "He is 15-years-old and doing very, very well," she said.
Knowles, the 2015 Ms. Virginia Woman United States, and three of her fellow queens from the Miss Woman United States Pageant organization, were amongst 250 military, Walter Reed staff and community members that volunteered for the event.
Batman, Disney Princesses, face painters, animal-balloon twisters, Santa Clause, Mrs. Clause and their elves were featured at the party. A buffet of food, colorful sugar cookies and sprinkled cupcakes lined the corner of the hangar.
"I think it's a fabulous event," U.S. Air Force Retired Maj. Gen. Scott Gray said. "I love the way it's grown. I love that we can do this for the families who have the challenges going on and bring a little of spirit in during Christmas time."
Agency 9 Dance Studio, The Berryville Baptist Rascals, and Chin Hamaya Culture Center provided entertainment for the PCFC families and volunteers.
"The volunteers are enthusiastic about this cause, and you can see that on full display," said Grampp.
Between volunteers, a display or an aircraft, every wing on JBA was represented at the party.
Ruby Markley, the PCFC President has been involved with the holiday party for eight years after her 11-months-old daughter was diagnosed at with acute myeloid leukemia.
Even though they aren't around the clinic as often as before, Markley says her favorite part of the annual party is catching up with the families and meeting the new ones.
"We try to stay involved and do as much as we can for of the families because we know what it's like," Markley said.
Approximately 110 children, 60 of which are patients, registered for the event.
"This took a lot of people and time," Grampp said. "Nobody dropped the ball, everybody came through and that's huge. It's so beautiful to see these people come together like this for the kids."
After 18 years of coordinating the holiday party Grampp said she plans to continue to take the reins.
"You see these kids and the joy this event brings them," Grampp said, "and that's when you're hooked. You're hooked! How can you not be?"
It's Hard to Tell Whether U.S. Spending to Elevate Women in Afghanistan Is Working (Government Executive)
Sony hack could mean new Senate subcommittee (Military Times)
Navy Cross recipient who battled military fakers laid to rest (Marine Corps Times)
Naval Academy gets $120 million for new cyber center (Navy Times)
For some, a visit to the dentist feels like a nightmare. But, for Capt. Eric Koenig, the 412th Aerospace Medicine Squadron dental flight commander, he hopes that it's his after-hours hobby that really keeps people awake at night.
For the last three years, the 13-year veteran has spent his nights and weekends writing screenplays. On this past Veterans Day, he accepted an offer from Paramount Pictures to purchase one of his scripts, "Matriarch," a story that revolves around two powerful, female characters. The screenplay sold for an amount in the mid six-figure range.
"You hear 'matriarch' and you might think 17th Century England; it has nothing to do with that,” Koenig said. “It's a current serial killer movie. The definition of matriarch is a powerful woman, head of the house, which goes for both of these women in this screenplay."
The plot follows a female serial killer on death row and her prison psychologist. There is one undisclosed piece of information left that would reveal the location of the killer's final victim. The psychologist finds herself working to find that information prior to her patient's impending execution.
"I like dark stuff; this is definitely a dark, violent thriller in the vein of "Silence of the Lambs." I like to see those kind of movies, so naturally that's what I'm going to write," said Koenig.
Without any formal training, Koenig learned to write screenplays by reading books on the subject.
The week before his screenplay was bought, "Matriarch" was entered in a Launch Pad contest on a Hollywood insider information website. His piece made it into the top 25, attracting the attention of a marketing team made up of a manager, an agent and an entertainment lawyer.
"Hearing the play had been purchased -- completely surreal,” he said. “It was a big deal. The night prior I was getting phone calls from my team, saying we've got this offer and let's consider it."
While the purchase does not guarantee that a movie will be made, Koenig is hopeful that he will see his work on the big screen within the next few years.
"I would love for (people watching the movie premiere) to be absolutely terrified,” he said. “I'd love for them to not be able to fall asleep that night. It's not about the money. I love writing, it's what I'm passionate about. I'm a dentist here during the week and that's my number one job, but evenings and weekends, I write."
When asked if he would seek a full-time career in screenplay writing, Koenig said, "I'm very passionate about dentistry, I love being in the Air Force, I love being a military dentist. I also love writing so the future is up in the air, but if I could do them both simultaneously that would be ideal.
"I would encourage anyone, and I'm living proof, that everyone should follow their dreams. It sounds cliché to say that, but it's the truth. You should never settle for anything that you're less than 100 percent invested in."
He went on to say that this is particularly true when it comes to a career.
"If you don't enjoy your career, there are other things you can do,” he said. “Too often people can get in a rut and they think they have to tough this out. Perfect example, I have a law enforcement background and I didn't want to be in law enforcement anymore. I wanted to become a dentist and the chances of that happening were very slim, but I made that happen. Even though I love being a dentist, I had this crazy idea to become a screenplay writer; no one should settle for less than what they love doing."
For Lilly Bradley, the thought of children not having presents to open on Christmas morning was a sad reality that she wanted to change for at least a few youngsters.
The 6-year-old daughter of Erin and Army Spc. Adam Bradley gave 100 underprivileged children across the globe a gift to open Dec. 25. Her father is assigned to the 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, and 101st Airborne Division here.The gifts were 100 red and green shoeboxes filled with toys, school supplies and candy through Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is a charity coordinated through Samaritan’s Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world.
“One hundred glue sticks, 100 pencils, 100 of everything,” Lilly said, smiling, as she described some of the contents contained in the shoeboxes.
Lemonade Stand Becomes Charitable Project
The charitable project started out as a simple lemonade stand in front of Lilly’s Fort Campbell home in June, her mother, Erin Bradley, said.
“I told them they needed to make a goal for how much they wanted to make,” Lilly’s mother said. “Their goal would depend on what they wanted the money for. Did she want to save up and buy something or did she want to donate it to charity?”
Afterward, Erin Bradley gave her daughter a few examples of charities. Lilly chose Operation Christmas Child.
“I think her biggest thing was thinking about kids not having presents on Christmas,” Lilly’s mother said. “She had mentioned that once -- that it would be really sad to wake up on Christmas and not have any presents.”
With her charitable goal in mind, Lilly -- with help from her younger sisters, Layla, 4, and Audriana, 2 -- made gallons of lemonade and sold cookies at about 20 lemonade stands throughout the summer. Erin Bradley said the trio raised about $350 for their efforts.
Bake Sale, Local Donations Help Fund Project
The Bradley’s established a Go Fund Me account, where Lilly received several donations from family and friends. They held a bake sale at their church, Trenton Assembly of God, as well.
Through the account and bake sale, Lilly raised about $825 -- the bulk of which was used for shipping charges. Each box ships for $7.
Additionally, a few local businesses donated some of the contents, like toothbrushes.
“She wanted to add a toothbrush and toothpaste to every one so that children could brush their teeth,” Erin Bradley said. “She loves to brush her teeth.”
With her mother’s savvy shopping advice, Lilly was able to make every dollar count when buying the supplies for the boxes.
“I taught her how to spend the money that she made,” Erin Bradley said. “We got a lot of the school supplies when they were on sale.”
Gift Boxes Packing Party
After purchasing the supplies, Lilly had a packing party with her friends to fill each box with a variety of items appropriate for girls and boys, mostly ages 2 to 4 and 5 to 9, as designated by the charity.
“Baby dolls and books and toothbrushes and soap and washcloths and highlighters and pens, coloring pages and that’s all,” Lilly said, listing some more contents of the boxes. In addition to the gifts, Lilly included a photo of herself and a letter -- typed by her mom -- to each shoebox recipient.
“I had so much fun making your box of presents for you, I really hope that you like them!” the letter said.
The Bradley’s delivered the 100 shoeboxes to Liberty Chapel here Nov. 18. The chapel staff will send the boxes forward to Samaritan’s Purse distributors.
“What she did was so remarkable,” said Army Chaplain (Col.) Terry Austin, the garrison chaplain. “It was a sustained effort ever since June to do lemonade stands and organize a task force to get all the stuff together and packed and ready for shipment. She did 18-year-old work at 6 years old. [She] inspired me and I hope that it inspires others to do more for others who are underprivileged.”
In addition to helping others, Erin Bradley said she hopes that this project taught Lilly some valuable lessons that she’ll use the rest of her life.
“Originally there was no intent other than just having a fun lemonade stand, but she ended up getting lessons on having a business, running it and how to buy your supplies from your profits. She learned how to spend money and count money,” Lilly’s mother said. “She also learned a lot about hospitality and giving and community. I hope that she … just know[s] that she did make a difference for other kids.”
The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s NORAD Tracks Santa website, http://www.noradsanta.org/ , launched today featuring a mobile version, a holiday countdown, new games and daily activities and more.
Official NORAD Tracks Santa apps are also available in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, so parents and children can countdown the days until Santa’s launch on their smart phones and tablets. Tracking opportunities are also offered on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+. Santa followers just need to type “@noradsanta” into each search engine to get started.
North Pole Elves
Also new this year, the website features Santa’s elves in the North Pole Village. NORAD Tracks Santa is introducing the newest elf and asking the public to help choose the perfect name for him. Details can be found via NORAD Tracks Santa social media or in the “Name the Elf” video in Santa’s North Pole Movie Theater at www.noradsanta.org.
Starting at 12:01 a.m. MST on Dec. 24, website visitors can watch Santa make preparations for his flight. NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will stream videos on the website as Santa makes his way over various locations.
Then, at 4 a.m. MST (6 a.m. EST), trackers worldwide can speak with a live phone operator to inquire as to Santa’s whereabouts by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Any time on Dec. 24, Windows Phone users can ask Cortana for Santa’s location, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to find Santa.
NORAD Tracks Santa started in 1955 when a local media advertisement directed children to call Santa direct -- only the number was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center. Thus, began the tradition, which NORAD has carried on since it was created in 1958.
Some veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder have special buddies to rely on -- specially trained Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers.
These dogs were bred to retrieve waterfowl and game birds for hunters, and that instinct suits them well to retrieve things for veterans, said Miami Phillips, a volunteer with paws4vets, a nonprofit that provides these dogs to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.
Phillips was at a Combined Federal Campaign drive at the Pentagon last week promoting paws4vets, one of many organizations relying on CFC.
Paws4vets has 86 psychiatric service dogs that are helping veterans with PTSD, Phillips said. They are specially bred and trained in Wilmington, N.C., and at seven state prisons in West Virginia. At the prisons, inmates themselves train the dogs.
Each dog gets a lot of training, he said. After about two years, the dog is ready. If the veteran is missing limbs, the dog is trained to push elevator buttons and turn on and off light switches.
The dog can even fetch a beverage from the refrigerator, Phillips said, explaining that a veteran without arms can hold a laser pointer in his teeth and point it at the fridge, which the dog will open. He then points it at the can or bottle.
But retrieving things, pushing buttons and flipping switches are just part of the training.
Since they're psychiatric service dogs, they get additional training on helping veterans with severe cases of PTSD.
These cases, which can come from traumatic brain injury, combat stress or sexual assault, are so severe, that when veterans get a panic attack, they sometimes curl up on the floor in a fetal position and start crying, he said.
"If you've ever been late for a flight or a date, you've probably had a mild panic attack," he said. "Now, multiply that by 100 and you'll begin to see what these vets experience."
The dogs are trained to recognize the onset of a panic attack. When they alert to this, they begin tapping the vet on the leg with their paw, he explained. The tapping sends a message to the vet from the dog: "pay attention to me," not to whatever you're thinking or feeling.
If that doesn't work, he said the dogs are trained to go and find someone to help the vet.
The dogs even sleep with the vets, he said. If the veterans experience a horrible nightmare, the dogs are trained to wake them up.
Phillips brought along his own psychiatric service dog, Goose. The dog, half lab, half Australian shepherd, is a demonstration dog that travels with him to events like this all up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
Goose is so well disciplined that Phillips placed a yummy dog biscuit on his nose and paw and the salivating pooch didn't move until he was given the command to eat.
This is actually an important thing to learn, he said. If the dog goes with a vet to a restaurant, you wouldn't want the dog to jump up on the buffet counter and savage the food. The dog has to show discipline.
The biscuit trick resulted in a small crowd of admirers, but Phillips wasn't finished.
He then pulled out a set of reading cards. When "wave" was shown, Goose waved. "Sit," "roll," and so on, produced the desired behavior.
Phillips travels with his wife to three to five paws4vets events with his wife and Goose in their sailboat, plying the Intracoastal Waterway and inland rivers. This week, they're sailing to a marathon event in the Florida Keys.
For more than 20 years, sailors have painted bulkheads, angle irons and decks on the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington. But for a talented group of artists aboard the vessel, painting is a pastime, a bonding experience and a unique way of telling the Navy’s story.
In October 2014, Aerographer’s Mate 3rd Class Kristena Huck, from Deming, Washington, and Machinist’s Mate Fireman Elizabeth Bowmer, from Astoria, Oregon, completed the painting of two large-scale murals on the ship’s aft mess decks.
One mural depicts USS George Washington “crossing the line,” and the other displays the diversity of sailors through the depiction of various “faces of the Navy.”
Artwork Features Members of Crew
“Four of the five faces are actually based on people around the ship,” Huck said. “It was fun to do because a variety of sailors volunteered to have a character in the painting modeled after their face, which allowed the mural to reflect some of the Navy’s ethnic diversity.”
Each mural spans more than 136 square feet. Although several sailors helped throughout the process of creating the murals, only two remained to see the project through to completion.
“There was a small group of us that were actively working on the murals at the beginning,” Huck said. “By the end, it was just Bowmer and I pushing each other to get the project done. We both have similar artistic styles, so the murals really blended together easily.”
Determined to Complete Work
Sometimes finding the time to work together on the mural became a challenge, but Bowmer and Huck were determined to finish.
“Since we have two different rates, we didn’t get to work on the project together very often,” Bowmer said. “But we did try to schedule it so that we worked at the same time, so that we could bounce ideas off of each other.”
According to Bowmer, they share a commonality in their artistic passion and skill, and their completion of the murals means the beginning of new painting endeavors.
“Even outside of this mural, Huck and I work on paintings pretty regularly,” Bowmer said. “We live in the same berthing, so we get to sit down in the lounge and work on artwork together.”
According to Bowmer, her desire to keep painting and designing will never wane.
“I plan to continue with this hobby,” she said. “Whether we’re underway or in port, I try to practice as much as I can to sharpen my skills. I plan on becoming a concept artist and art designer for video games after my enlistment in the Navy.”