HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. – --
Maura Solis wasn’t ready, and yet, she was. As the Air Force Aid Society officer for Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., she has guided many Airmen and their families through rough patches.
Yet one call changed everything, a phone call that she acknowledged as her saddest case, one that to this day stays with her more than all the rest.
“We had a family,” she said. “Whose teenage child had committed suicide on base.”
He was 16 years old.
The call added a personal dimension for Solis in her duties on the job.
“It really touched my heart, because I had a teenager at the time,” she said.
As the family was having financial hardship, and was unable to pay for a burial, a Holloman AFB first sergeant referred them to Solis, who talked to them about the options the AFSA offered.
They talked for over two hours.
“The parents were in a state of shock,” she said. “It was really heartbreaking.”
The family wanted a respectful and dignified funeral, and the AFAS, along with Solis helped to provide a bridge loan, which is a loan that gives assistance until a service member’s insurance benefits comes through.
“It was one of the saddest cases I’ve ever covered,” she said. “But the good thing is that the AFAS was able to help.”
With Solis’ guidance, and Air Force Aid Assistance, the family was able to hold a memorial service at Alamogordo High School.
“It was really special,” said Solis. “Both the Alamogordo and Holloman communities came together and paid tribute.”
Her job as an AFAS officer is difficult at times, but stories like these cases she keeps going.
“I love my job,” she said. “But it it’s also very gratifying.”
Master Sgt. Jason Weir, a first sergeant with the 29th Attack Squadron, still chuckles at that car from time to time. An emerald green Volkswagen Cabriolet.
“A Volkswagen rabbit with a white soft top basically,” said Weir.
He looks back on those days fondly.
As a young airman first class, in 2001, he got an assignment to U.S. Southern Command in Miami, Florida. So he loaded up the green Cabriolet--everything he owned in the world was strapped to it--and drove cross country from Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs, to Miami.
“I looked like Jed Clampett (from the Beverly Hillbillies) out there,” he said.
“I get to Miami and I figure I’m going to save the Air Force some money and not file my travel voucher, which you should never do,” Weir said. “And unbeknownst to me, they were still taking Basic Allowance for Sustenance out of my paycheck as if I was still living in the dorms.”
This went on for a year, as Weir admits he was still a little green in terms of being an Airman.
“I barely knew how to read a Leave and Earnings Statement,” he said. “So I thought it was money that was supposed to be coming out. But I kept a good budget, and I was fine, yet I was still living paycheck to paycheck.”
But a strained budget would soon take its toll.
As is normal in tropical Miami, a lot of rain that can lead to flooding. Weir would soon find out that flooding and Cabriolets do not mix.
“I was driving and hit a nice little lake there in the street,” he said. “And all that cold water hit the engine, which was aluminum, and basically cracked it.”
He took the car for an estimate and was told it would cost $1,200 to fix, money he did not have.
“I told my supervisor the issue and I would have to take the shuttle to work,” Weir said.
His supervisor discussed some ways about getting money to fix his car, but Weir was hesitant.
“I was like, no I can take care of it,” he said.
“No, we’ll talk to the Air Force Aid folks,” said his supervisor.
After seeing how financially responsible he was, in spite of the fact they were taking so much out of his check every month, they approved him for a loan.
“With the Air Force Aid Society, it’s all about looking out for the Airmen,” he said.
He was able to get his car back on the road, and almost immediately after that he began donating to the AFAS.
As a first sergeant today, it’s his job to look out for his Airmen, and particularly those airmen in need financially. He’s always telling them the benefits of the AFAS. “What I want my Airmen to know, is that they are helping out the guy next to them,” he said. “And who knows, you may be paying it forward.”
Airmen helping Airmen, it’s something Master Sgt. Weir wants his Airmen to think about.
“We could all use a blessing,” he said.
It’s a blessing Master Sgt. Weir knows all about.