Jan 22, 2011 8:45 PM by Matt Stafford

A.F.A. cadets helping Ft. Carson families

"Fun, relief of stress, and something out of the ordinary," Melissa Gaines says that's what she was wanting for her kids -- A.J., Alex, and C.J. --- when she brought them out to the Air Force Academy on Saturday. Cadets invited families of deployed 3rd Brigade Combat Team soldiers from Fort Carson for some fun.

The Gaines' dad is on his 3rd deployment.

"They're going through a rough time," Melissa says. "They worry about if he's okay over there, if anything bad is happening."

The Gaines kids didn't know any other kids when they showed up, but with 43 other 3rd B.C.T. families and 70 A.F.A. cadets, it lets them know they aren't alone.

"Some other people are going through it and having the same feelings I'm having," says nine-year-old Alex Gaines.

Each family teamed up with a cadet or two. It's part of the LIFT program -- or Leaders in Flight Today -- that cadets go through as juniors. It's focused on showing leadership in the community.

This class of cadets chose to work on their leadership through helping Fort Carson families. They wanted to make contacts to offer help if the families needed it while their soldier is deployed (at just about anything; changing the oil on their car, moving, babysitting, etc.).

Saturday was a chance to meet up and "break the ice."

"I just jumped at it," says A.F.A. cadet Brittany Rucker. "These kids were just like me when I was younger." Her parents both deployed to Operation Desert Storm when she was little, so she has a good idea what the Gaines are going through.

"It was hard for me," Rucker says, adding that's a big reason why she was excited to get involved. "They need that support factor so that's what I'm pretty much here to do."

"Being in the military, you're going to have to do things like deploy," says Delaney Kiernan, the cadet in charge of the LIFT program. She points out that many of the cadets will deploy someday themselves. She wanted to put together a program that she would want for her own family someday.

"It's just nice to know that you're family will be in good hands," say Kiernan.

Melissa Gaines felt like her family got a lot of good out of the day; her kids got another role model they need right now, but also the family got reassurance that people care and are proud of them.


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