The Wingman Foundation is an amazing organization. Following an accident in 2016, the Wingman Foundation coordinated with my Squadron to ensure that my family and the family of my co-pilot were taken care of financially while we were in the ICU at Harborview Medical center. It would have been a huge financial drain on my family and friends if Wingman had not stepped in to fill the void. I cannot say enough about the great and selfless work that Wingman Foundation does to take care of the families of those aviators that are injured or killed during their dangerous duties.
The Wingman Foundation — A foundation I trusted instantly once I read their mission statement, sitting at my kitchen table, hours after the news my husband, Capt Jake “Red Stripe” Frederick, wouldn’t be coming home in five weeks to raise our 3-year-old son or meet our unborn daughter who was due in the coming weeks. I trusted them to help, to take over, to do what they do — in the best interest of not just me, but my children. As a Gold Star wife experiencing every military spouse’s worst nightmare in real time, knowing there were people out there in this world who cared to work on MY behalf and with zero questions asked — felt like the first heartfelt and un-intrusive decision I’d made in the overwhelming sea of decisions thrown at me. All they needed was a green light from me, and they began working to somehow lessen, in the way only they can do, the burden of all that would be ahead. In that grief-stricken, heart-wrenching, unimaginable moment — I felt a weight lifted, as I knew for the foreseeable future, I was going to be taken care of. And, that feeling has been proven through the actions of TWF — time and time again. Not only did they launch an amazing fundraising campaign to provide a future for my kids and I, they haven’t left my side since. From the funeral, to the burial, to travel, and continued support in keeping my late husband’s legacy alive — TWF has been the first to support me wholeheartedly. They don’t ask for anything in return. They define their mission to Never Leave a Wingman Behind. I’ve never once felt left behind or alone in this journey. They’ve made sure of that since day one. I could list the events I’ve attended with TWF leading the charge to honor the sacrifices of our heroes, but the list is so long. There hasn’t been one event that wasn’t genuine and working toward the common goal — to support the families of our fallen aviators and air crew. I’ve experienced so much healing just being around people who get it. The Wingman Foundation gets it. And, I’m proud to volunteer as much as I can to support and further their mission — it’s not only close to my heart, but I believe in their cause with all I am.
There are few organizations with a cause more honorable than The Wingman Foundation. As the sister of a Gold Star Wife, after my brother-in-law Captain Jake Frederick, sacrificed his life defending our freedom, I have witnessed firsthand TWF executing their mission in real time. When families of the fallen are reeling from tragedy and don’t even know how to verbalize what they need or how they will ever move forward — TWF comes behind the scenes and begins the process of laying a foundation for a future they know will come when the chaos clears. They fill voids and meet needs Gold Star Families are unaware they will even have in the future. TWF is the most vital, crucial, stabilizing relief in the long, vast process a Gold Star Family will go through as they begin rebuilding their lives. Their provision provides an opportunity for families of the fallen to be able to have what is quite possibly the very first and deepest exhale after their beloved has paid the ultimate price for our freedom. My nephew was only three when my incredible brother-in-law sacrificed all, my niece missed meeting her daddy by just a few weeks, and my sister will never have the chance to be reunited with her great love earthside. Those things, no one can change, but TWF can and has absolutely lessened the burden in a way it’s hard to even put into words. Not only did they immediately begin a fundraiser for our family, but they have held our hands through some of the darkest hours of this grief journey — through the burial and now keeping our brave aviator’s legacy alive. Thankful isn’t a word big enough to describe the way I feel about TWF. And, I’m only one of the many families they touch. I’m blown away by the way they continue to live out their mission — never leaving a wingman behind, even two years later. They’re still reinforcing, stabilizing, and honoring my brother-in-law’s legacy at every turn. My sister, my niece, my nephew, myself — WE are living proof of their incredible ability to pick up so many pieces — even the ones we didn’t know were shattered.
The Wingman Foundation isn’t just another organization to me. The Wingman Foundation is my friend. From the moment my husband’s helicopter went missing, they were there for me, and most importantly, as a shoulder to cry on. You see, these men at TWF actually knew my husband, his crew, and many other Marines and Sailors killed in aviation tragedies, so it’s personal to them. TWF provides immediate financial relief and emotional support to these surviving families.
Most recently, TWF donated a large sum of money to The Marine Aviation Memorial Bell Tower at the Veteran’s Memorial Park Foundation of Pensacola, FL - which just so happens to be the cradle of Marine and Naval Aviation. I am incredibly emotionally connected to this tower, as there is a plaque that lies there bearing the name of my husband, his crew, and two Combat Camera Marines who were killed with him. The donated money will go towards additional plaques commemorating the lives of other fallen Marines killed in aviation accidents. This tower gives my children and I something physical to visit, as my husband is buried in Nebraska, yet we live in Florida. It is a very special place for us.
The friendships I have made at the Wingman Foundation will last a lifetime. I am so grateful for this organization.
Ashley Lukasiewicz, widow to Captain Dustin R. Lukasiewicz, USMC
WWNF Vengeance 01
I have worked with TWF for two years, on year in mishap response (lead VFA-213 and assisted on others) and personally effected by their outreach multiple times. Truly a first class organization that puts those they serve first.
In mishap response, there are always issues that arise with how should money be spent, appropriate requests from family’s, and balancing budget versus appropriateness of expenditures. I can say that the organization does its best to be as giving and focused as possible, while balancing that every situation unique. We are not always perfect, but at no point is our mission comprised or our families burdened.
Finally, outreach is fantastic in supporting word of mouth to all us to grow in base and support without becoming the focus. When a mishap happens, the team is all focus on that to ensure the families are getting what they need. At no time have I seen fundraising take precedent.
In short, all organizations run into challenges. TWF has the focus, effort, and responsible leadership to get through them, and that makes me proud to be a part of it.
The Wingman Foundarion is the only organization in the word that is dedicated solely to Naval Aviation mishap support. Founded in 2014, TWF has responded to every Naval Aviation mishap since it’s incepton, working with hundreds of Gold Star family members. TWF also awards and manages several scholarships honrong our fallen and empowering future generations. True to their motto, Never Leave a Wingman Behind, TWF sponsors physical memorials as well. They are comited to ensuring that the families of our fallen air warriors have the unwavering support they deserve. It’s an honor to be a part of The Wingman Flundation.
As a career Naval Aviator, I have been close to several aviation mishaps. I have seen first-hand the terrible effect that it can have on families of the deceased. Unfortunately the military can have its hands tied in the amount of support they can provide and to whom they provide it to. The Wingman Foundation is doing an outstanding job of providing relief for families in their time of need and filling a critical gap. I cannot think of a better organization to support.
In May 2018, Marines from around Okinawa, Japan gathered in support of the 3rd Annual Operation Sahayogi Haat Memorial Run. The run remembers the six Marines, and two Nepalese soldiers on board Vengeance 01, a UH-1Y tasked to support humanitarian aid missions after a devastating series of earthquakes in the spring of 2015. Two of the Marines on board Vengeance 01 were combat camera Marines permanently stationed in Okinawa, and HMLA-469, Vengeance, was forward deployed to Okinawa, Japan in support of the Unit Deployment Program. As the event grows, so does the ambition of those hosting it. This year, the organizers wanted to provide the more than 1,000 participants a participation gift: shirts specific to the event. As it is a free event hosted on Camp Foster, organizers were at a loss as to how to pay for the shirts. In stepped the Wingman Foundation. One of the organizers reached out to the team at the Wingman Foundation and within less than a week, shirts were on order and in production. The Wingman Foundation purchased more than 1,500 shirts, and helped make the Operatoin Sahayogi Haat Memorial Run something that will live on. The Wingman Foundation’s mission is to honor the sacrifices of the fallen and support the families they’ve left behind; there is no doubt that they are passionate and earnest in their dedication to it. Thank you to the entire team at the Wingman Foundation for helping us to never forget Vengeance 01 and the sacrifice they made. Semper fidelis.
The Wingman Foundation holds a HUGE part of our heart for everything they have done for my family and I. We lost my better half, SSgt Alex Fontalvo, to a helicopter mishap on 3/17/2011 aboard MCAS Miramar. The Wingman Foundation helped us honor Alex's legacy with a Ceremony on Mt.Soledad (San Diego, CA) for the placement of his Veterans Plaque. There was so much that the foundation did for us to make it memorable for all of us to include making us all comfortable with our stay. Knowing that there is such a Foundation to help many families like us is such a blessing in all. I am extremely grateful for everything The Wingman Foundation has done for us and to help us keep Alex's memory alive. Thank you for everything.
Always, The Fontalvo & Amador Family
The Wingman Foundation has been an integral part of my family since we lost my husband, LCDR Landon Jones, to a helicopter mishap on 9/22/13. They have helped us continue to honor his service, legacy and sacrifice through the creation of a scholarship in his name at his high school and the placement of a plaque in his honor at a local memorial site most notably. But what has mattered the most if their continued contact with my family and following on their promise of "Never Leave a Wingman Behind." I am so thankful for them and the support they offered during the worst time of my life. I know my husband is looking down and relieved knowing that his fellow wingmen have picked up where he left off.
I am the Gold Star Mother of Maj. Shawn Campbell, USMC, HMH-463, Pegasus 32. He is my only child. Shawn was one of twelve Marines killed 01/14/2016 in the mid-air collision of Pegasus 31 and 32 off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. There were 12 "new" Gold Star Mothers and Fathers born out of the deaths of our sons that night. The ripples of their deaths have reached far and wide, touching so very many with the legacies of their lives.
The Wingman Foundation was sponsoring a 20 mile Memorial Walk in Washington DC in honor of fallen naval aviators, including Shawn and the Pegasus Boys. They contacted me, asking if I would be their guest to attend this event. Of course I accepted! By the end of the day, I had the ticket for my flight and the reservation for my room in my hands.
The night before the Walk, they sponsored a dinner for all of us Gold Stars so we could meet and hug each other and share tears as we spoke of our Lost Ones. It was a very special night for me. The opportunity to be with others that are "like me" was comforting. Without The Wingman Foundation, I would not have met other Gold Star Parents, including another of the Pegasus "mishap" Gold Stars. Knowing that there are others like me is one thing, however being able to meet these other Gold Stars and talk with them face to face, and cry together - just to be able to spend time with them - gave me an incredible sense of "belonging."
Please know that those of us that are Gold Stars would never ever have wanted to be Gold Stars. The price of membership is the price of Freedom: that price was paid with the life of someone that we love. Our lives are forever changed.
The next day, the Walk happened - through the flooding waters around DC. It was muddy and rainy, and it was more than I could do. The Wingman Foundation staff made sure that I was in the right place at the right time to participate in the reading of the names of the Fallen. They stood beside me as I read the names of the Pegasus 12 Marines. People there that knew Shawn, that had served with him, and that knew him as a person. They shared their stories with me. Someone knew my son and honored and remembered him! Those are treasures beyond anything I can explain.
The respect and the love The Wingman Foundation gave me (and all the Gold Stars) was outstanding. The staff is amazing! Each and every one is warm and welcoming, ready to assist in every way possible, from checking in to my room, to driving me from place to place so I could participate in the event. They understand loss and sacrifice. They understand the emotional upheaval that will endure with those of us left behind for the rest of our lives. They understand, and they care.
True to their word, they do, indeed, "Honor the sacrifices of our fallen air warriors and the families they've left behind." This is not just a slogan for them, or something that they say. It is something that they actually do. The Wingman Foundation truly does honor the Fallen, and truly does care about those of us that are left behind.
Gold Star Mother, Maj. Shawn Campbell
USMC HMH-463, Pegasus 32
The Wingman Foundation has been very supportive to the Spears family. My name is Cosette Spears. My husband, Greg, and I are gold star parents. We lost our son, a marine crew chief, Cpl. Jordan L. Spears, on October 1, 2014, when the V-22 Osprey he was on, lost power upon take off from the USS Makin Island in the North Arabian Sea. They were being sent on a mission to pick up marines and take them to reinforce the Baghdad Embassy. The embassy was being threatened by ISIS. Sadly, he was lost at sea.
We have been told by one of the Wingman team that our son, Jordan, was the “genesis” of this W Foundation. After Jordan was lost in the mishap, several Marine aviators banded together and vowed to do something in the face of the loss of these airmen in the Navy and Marines. The Wingman Foundation was born. They have attended to the needs of families that have lost airmen, families of the injured, gold star families, and given out college scholarships. We know they also attend funerals, offer support, meet financial needs, and help in numerous ways with families and airmen in crisis.
Our family also suffered another loss when Jordan’s identical twin, Nathan, died on January 1, 2017.
God is definitely our heavenly Father and has brought us strength and comfort when we felt like we couldn’t go on, but, our entire family has suffered greatly. When we were approached by one of the members of the Wingman Foundation about coming to the 20-mile Memorial Walk in Washington D.C., it was the first time we have been excited about something in a very long time. We have had a hard time with depression but looking forward to this walk got us out and we walked miles in preparation. This means a great deal to us as it gave us motivation and a more hopeful outlook, not to mention helped us physically! We have been asked, “How could you walk twenty miles?!” The answer is: unity of purpose and the drive of all those that walked with us. If I can walk 20 miles, I can keep it up. I’m now bound and determined to keep walking and I attribute this motivation to The Memorial Walk. After all, we have to be ready for the walk next year!
Meeting the many people who have lost friends, family members, and their fellow wingmen was eye opening and very moving. Not a better group of people have we met! The walk was fun, a challenge, a way to pay tribute to those who we have lost in their service, and a memorable experience that is hard to put into words. The walk gathered some of our dear friends and family members together to honor Jordan and the other airmen. They also came to support us and it was “great” to have this time with them. We found the people who are part of the Wingman Foundation team to be helpful and personal. They offered to attend to any needs we might have during the walk and our stay in D.C.
The Foundation team members set up our lodging and flights as well as dinners with the group while we were there. They financially covered these things for us in an effort to support us as gold star family members. They definitely took stress off our shoulders in setting these things up and covering expenses. This was something we did not “expect”! But, we truly “appreciate” their generosity.
Participating in the Memorial Walk opened doors for us to see men and women who served with our son, Jordan, and that was very meaningful for us. Many thanks to all the hard working folks in the Wingman Foundation.