More from the Base 2 Base March in Delaware!

Participants posed for large and small group photos along the way, including at the first rest stop. USO Delaware Center Director Joan Cote is standing in the USO shirt, center.

We hope you had a chance to read about a great event that occurred in Delaware this weekend: the 3rd Annual Base 2 Base March!  Nearly fifty airmen made the 47-mile trek from the Delaware Air National Guard headquarters in New Castle to the Dover Air Force Base.  Along the way they were supported by just one civilian marcher, and that was the USO’s own Joan Cote, Center Director for USO Delaware!

We wanted to share a bit more about this great event, which raised over $1000 for the USO…

The first participant began the march just a couple minutes before 5:00 p.m.  Within a few minutes after 5:00 p.m., all marchers departed the air base, with event organizer Tech. Sgt. David Jackson one of the last marchers to leave, keeping an eye on the long line of marchers.  Participants included 45 combined Airmen from the active duty 436th Airlift Wing and the Air Force Reserve 512th Airlift Wing, both based at Dover AFB.  Also marching were four Airmen from the Delaware Air National Guard’s 166th Airlift Wing.

The 49 Airmen departed Delaware ANG HQ past the main gate and down Spruance Drive, walking in small clusters of one, two, three, four or five Airmen. Nearly every other participant carried a flag, either their unit flag, or an Air Force flag, a USO flag, or a handmade flag.

It was a sunny spring day and the Airmen applied sunscreen, ate snacks and drank fluids before they departed, in addition to carrying a flashlight and a reflective belt for safety, as the march lasted all through the night, too.  The large group heard welcome remarks from Colonel Daniel Van Wyk, 166th Maintenance Group Commander, Delaware Air National Guard, and then received a safety briefing from event organizer Tech. Sgt. Jackson. The marchers also heard a few words of encouragement from Chief Master Sgt. Chris Ford, 512th Maintenance Squadron Superintendent, who is also participating in the march.

Congratulations to every one who marched and came out to support USO Delaware.   We’ll see you next year!

The marchers - having walked for nearly 22 hours - round the bend into the North Gate at Dover Air Force Base, where a host of sirens and cheers greeted them upon arrival.

Airmen March from Base to Base for USO

USO Delaware's Center Director Joan Cote (r) hits the 17-mile marker with walkers during the 3rd Annual Base to Base March on May 21, 2010.

The 3rd annual Base 2 Base March commenced on May 21, with  four dozen participants undertaking a 22-hour,  47-mile ruck march from the Delaware Air National Guard headquarters in New Castle to the Dover Air Force Base.  And the money raised – over $1000 this year alone – goes to the USO!

“I would love for deployed servicemembers to see we are thinking of them every day,” Tech. Sgt. David Jackson told Master Sgt. Jake Chappelle of 512th AW Public Affairs. “We may be bruised and blistered today, but they do this all the time. This (Base 2 Base March) is just a way of showing our appreciation for what they do.”

“The USO Delaware is thrilled that Sergeant Jackson has honored us with his Base 2 Base March,” said Joan Cote, USO Delaware director. “It brings awareness about the USO and also provides funding to support his military peers. It’s pretty remarkable that this Air Force member takes time away from his family life after a hectic work schedule to coordinate and complete this incredible event year after year. I don’t think many people realize what a difficult task the march is. That’s pretty impressive.”

This event would not have been possible without the dedicated walkers, volunteers, and other folks who made it possible.  It was tough going at times, but those who completed the walk all crossed the finish line together, showing that teamwork and support make anything possible.  Way to go!

New Families of the Fallen Center at Dover AFB

From the Desk of John Hanson, Senior Vice President of Communications at the USO:

The military’s only mortuary is located at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.  Military casualties from around the world pass through Dover where remains are prepared before going on to their final resting place.  It’s always been a busy operation, but since 9/11 the mortuary has been extremely active.

It would be difficult to find a place that operates with more respect and that provides more dignified service than at this location.  Volunteers from the base augment the professional staff.  They ensure that correct military uniforms and decorations are provided – even when the remains will not be viewed.

Last year, more family members were permitted to come to Dover to witness the dignified transfer of remains as they returned to the United States.  For many families, this step in the process is critical as they begin to deal with the death of a loved one.  The military strives to return these casualties to the U.S. extremely quickly, sometimes just days after a death – sometimes faster than that.

When survivors are notified about the death of a family member, they have to make a decision about whether to come to Dover to meet the flights bringing remains back home.  Often, they have to be in Dover within hours of the notification.

Families of the Fallen Center at Dover AFB

Inside the Families of the Fallen Center at Dover AFB. Photo courtesy of the Navy Times.

Until last month, there was no special place for them to collect themselves as they waited for remains to arrive.  There was no quiet place; no safe place to gather and deal with a rush of emotions we can only imagine.

But, on January 6, the USO and Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations opened the Families of the Fallen Center at Dover.  The pictures here will give you an idea about how it looks and  maybe even how it feels. It took just 90 days to turn an empty building into a place of dignified reflection.  We’re extremely grateful to the donors, contractors and vendors who worked with the USO and the base to turn this idea into reality.

*****

The Honor Guard and USO volunteers who meet each and every fallen servicemember deserves our very best. In the following video, Center Director Joan Cote and former Dover Wing Commander John Pray, among others, reflect on the new Centers and why they’re more than just bricks and mortar…