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.