PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. --
Community engagement is a staple of the New Hampshire National Guard Mission.
Members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing volunteered to support the New Hampshire Summer 2018 Special Olympics from June 1-2, 2018 at the University of New Hampshire Durham campus.
Staff Sgt. Kayla M. McWalter, a 157th ARW production recruiter, described the role the recruiting team plays each year.
“We gather volunteers from throughout the Wing to help with award presentations, in conjunction with members of the State Police,” said McWalter.
McWalter has volunteered for four years in a row.
“It’s rewarding because I can see what it means to these kids,” said McWalter, smiling as she reflected on past events. “Seeing them light up and give us hugs is just incredible.”
The Wing recruiting team has been coordinating volunteers for the Special Olympics for more than 24 years.
Tech. Sgt. Jessica Lynn Davidson, the Active Guard Reserve manager assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters Human Resource Office, has participated since 2011.
“We have had volunteers from the Wing from all ranks and duty sections participating,” said Davidson. “It’s a raw form of joy and appreciation that leaves a lasting positive image of character instilled in members of the National Guard and in the eyes of our local community members.”
For one Wing command post controller, her tie to this section of the community is even stronger.
Staff Sgt. Beverly C. Meijers presented awards to all the swimming competitors after each heat, or portion of the event, including her younger brother, Simon Cole.
“I think it’s really exciting,” said Meijers. “I’ve grown up cheering on my other siblings at their sporting events. It’s great being able to be here for him.”
Cole, a 17-year-old Dover High School student, participated as a member of the Dover Mighty Seals Special Olympics Swim Team, an organization which provides sports training and athletic competition to adults and children with intellectual disabilities.
Cole participated in the New Hampshire Special Olympics for the second time this year, swimming the 25, 15 and 10 meter events.
Participants in heat number 17 lined up along the edge of the pool, still wet from the 25 meter event, celebrating amongst themselves with laughter and high fives.
Meijers presented each award with a smile and a handshake, starting with Cole. Cole stood tall, as the ribbon’s string passed over his head.
“You did it,” said Meijers to Cole, gripping both of his shoulders.
As a volunteer, Meijers represented the Wing, served the local community and supported her family.
“I love being able to blend my work and home life,” said Meijers, eyes seeming to light up. “It’s so important, as a member of the Air National Guard, to be able to connect with people this way.”