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Spouses Receive Special Pins for Contributions to Air Force

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2004 – Air Force leaders unveiled a new pin at the Pentagon today to recognize the contributions of military spouses.

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Sandra Forney looks on as she listens to the accomplishments of her husband, Air Force Master Sgt. Glenn Forney, a member of the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Forney said she has supported her husband throughout his 26-year career. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
  

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Air Force Undersecretary Peter B. Teets said the Air Force Spouse Pin program is designed to honor and recognize spouses of active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen, as well as the spouses of Air Force civilians, "for the sacrifices they are making in supporting the ongoing war on terrorism."

In creating the Spouse Pin, Teets said, officials recognized that "clearly one of the strongest possible support members is the spouse of the airmen."

He noted that when airmen are deployed for several months, "that's the time when that support structure really does kick in, and our spouses play such an important role."

The pins were well received by spouses like Air Force Maj. John Bertha, who now understands clearly how difficult life is for military spouses.

When his wife, Air Force Maj. Valerie Bertha, deployed for three months during Operation Iraq Freedom, he was left to take care their two girls. With hardly a smile, he described his experience as being "very tough."

"We have a one and a half and three and a half year old who are always on the move," he said. "When you are with them, parenting is a full-time job."

Bertha said his situation was only made worse by the fact that he serves full time in the Air Force. He said had it not been for the support he received from Air Force supervisors, family and friends, "I would not have gotten through it."

"The challenge, he said, "was much more than I had anticipated in raising children and trying to maintain the defense of the nation as an active-duty member."

Sandra Forney, wife of Master Sgt. Glenn Forney, also recognizes that being married to a servicemember is difficult.

However, she supported her husband throughout his 26-year career because "he has an important job."

Her husband is with the D.C. Air National Guard and works as a fuels operations supervisor for the 113th Logistics Readiness Squadron, 113th Wing, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Forney said his wife supported him during deployments in support of Operation Northern Watch in Turkey and also while he served in the United Arab Emirates in support of Operation Iron Falcon.

Forney also served in Operation Noble Eagle since 2001, supporting his unit's aircraft flying Combat Air Patrol missions over the Washington, D.C., area.

Holding his wife's hand, he said the Spouse Pin program helps give spouses the recognition they need.

"It's been many years where they (spouses) didn't get any," Forney said. "Its good to see the Department of Defense reaching out to spouses for all that they do."

Sandra said the pin bears special meaning because the Air Force recognizes "all that spouses go through."

The Forneys have been married for 30 years. She said her husband left for boot camp five days after they were married and they spent the first three anniversaries apart. On Nov. 12, the couple will celebrate this anniversary together. "He's taking me away somewhere special," she said.

Sandra, who raised their three children mostly alone, explained that loneliness is the hardest part of the job of being a spouse. "Dealing with everything on your own you never realize how much your spouse does until they are not there to do it," she said.

Meanwhile, Kathleen Westbrook, was so proud to receive today's award that she had tears in her eyes as her husband attached the special pin on her lapel. She said she is happy to be married to a servicemember and called today's event "a very big honor and a very proud moment."

"I said that I wasn't going to cry," she said.

With her support, Senior Master Sgt. Paul Westbrook, a reservist with the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, volunteered for duty at Royal Air Force station Mildenhall, United Kingdom. There, he served as a C-141C loadmaster during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Like she has done for the past 11 years, Kathleen said she has no regret being married to the military. She said she stands by her husband and the men and women of the armed forces.

"I'm here to support my husband and the rest of the military that are out there protecting our country," she said.

She also pointed out that supporting her husband's career has meant being understanding. "I try to be there for him," she said. Westbrook added that he is thankful she is.

He could never do his job without her, he emphasized. "They (spouses) are part of the Air Force team," he explained. "We could not keep our minds on our jobs without our spouses who are at home taking care of things."

He said he appreciates the fact that his wife is "there for me, that she loves me, and when I get back home, she's there waiting for me."

The Spouses Pin is part of a new three-pronged program by the Air Force that includes two other pins, one that recognizes the parents of airmen, while the other spotlights employers of reserve component members.

Teets said the Air Force created the Employer Pin program to thank employers for their support of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen.

At the urging of Air Force Secretary James Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper, the Parent Pin program, was created to thank parents of "America's airmen" for their sons' and daughters' service, Teets explained.

"What the Air Force is trying to do with this program is say thanks to the people that support our airmen in the field," he said.

More than 300,000 Parent Pins and some 55,000 Employer Pins have been handed out thus far, officials said.

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Biographies:
Air Force Undersecretary Peter B. Teets

Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Undersecretary Peter B. Teets applauds his wife, Vivian, after presenting her with the new Air Force Spouse Pin during an informal ceremony at the Pentagon Nov. 8. The Air Force created the Spouse Pin program to honor and recognize spouses of active duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen, as well as those of Air Force civilians, for the sacrifices they are making in supporting the war on terrorism. Three other Air Force spouses received pins during the ceremony. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageKathleen Westbrook, wife of Senior Master Sgt. Paul Westbrook, a reservist with the 459th Air Refueling Wing at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., sheds a few tears while receiving her pin. Mrs. Westbrook supported her husband when he volunteered for duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Maj. Valerie Bertha prepares to present her husband, Air Force Maj. John Bertha, with the Spouse Pin. John said the experience of raising children without a spouse can be "very tough." Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA  
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