Friday, May 20, 2022

A Pastor's Ponderings: (May 2022) Dr. Doug Stauffer, Journalist

 A Pastor's Ponderings: A Tribute to My Mom and Moms Everywhere

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
May 2022--Article 19 (2022-05-019)

I lost my mom last Mother's Day (2021) to complications following surgery. The loss was painful, but I don't believe that future Mother's Days should become a day of sadness and mourning. Quite the opposite! I prefer to consider Mother's Day as a special tribute, remembrance, and recognition. My mom was a beloved mother of four and a treasured grandmother, great grandmother, wife, and friend.

She was born in Erding, Germany, just outside of Munich, two years before the onset of WWII. She loved to read, and the library was her home away from home. She directly impacted me with that same passion, greatly influencing my life and career. For 20 years, she and my dad were snowbird RVers.

Two months before her death, my mom and dad celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. Thankfully, my dad will spend this Mother's Day with us here in Niceville. One of the many personalized sympathy cards expressed the commonly held sentiments about my mom.

"God saw she was getting tired, and a cure was not to be,
so he put his arms around her and whispered, 'Come with me.'
With tearful eyes, I watched her suffer and saw her fade away.
Although I loved her dearly, I could not make her stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard-working hands to rest,
God broke my heart to prove that He only takes the best."

Truly, heart-rending words to read again! Like so many others in our communities, my mom was a military spouse, and I would be remiss not to remind everyone of their sacrifices during deployments. In 1967, my father was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base and volunteered to go to Vietnam with the 7th Air Force—1967/1968.

My 29-year-old mom was left with three pre-teen type-A boys, a new puppy and giving birth to my sister. While my dad was there, the Vietcong attacked every major city and base during the TET Offensive. I am proud of his Bronze Star, but my mom should have received the Parental Distinguished Service Medal for conspicuous gallantry. We must NEVER forget the tremendous sacrifices of those who do not wear the stars, the bars and the stripes but keep the home fires burning.

To close on a lighter note: here are seven truths my mom taught us:

1. HOW TO PRAY: After spilling grape juice on the carpet, she instructed, "You better pray the stain will come out."

2. PLAN AHEAD: "Make sure you wear clean underwear because you could be in an accident."

3. LIFE'S PARADOXES: "Keep laughing, and I'll give you something to cry about."

4. HOW TO PERSEVERE: "You'll sit there 'til all that spinach is finished."

5. SPOTTING SEVERE WEATHER PATTERNS: "It looks like a tornado swept through your room."

6. THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."

7. EMPATHY: "There are millions of less fortunate children who don't have it as good as you do!"

Pick up the phone or visit your mom this Mother's Day. Tell her that you love her because you are not guaranteed unlimited opportunities. The Bible exhorts every generation, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22). Happy Mother's Day. 

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Raiders Win the 2021-22 National Championship! -- Coach of the Year Named; New Coach Hired (May 2022-18) Dr. Doug Stauffer, Journalist

Raiders Win the 2021-22 National Championship! -- Coach of the Year Named; New Coach Hired

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
May 2022--Article 18 (2022-05-18)

Youth and inexperience, frequently a recipe for sports disaster, turned into a miracle in the making. Coach Greg Heiar (affectionately called GH) and his youthful Raiders overcame every obstacle. With little experience playing at the college level, the Raiders reached the pinnacle of success—their crowning as the 2022 NJCAA Men's Division I Basketball National Champions! For the third time in school history, the Northwest Florida State College Raiders men's basketball team claimed the cherished title.

The Raiders received an at-large bid to the national tournament, which meant they had to compete head-to-head against the country's top-tiered teams. Over six days, they had to win (and did win) all five games. This turnaround team consisted primarily of freshmen who had never played college basketball. They recorded 25 more wins over the previous year's 6-15 record to finish with a magnificent 31 wins and only five losses.

This team was built from scratch and described as fearless, determined, and tough. The team represents five countries on three continents. Dr. Devin Stephenson said of the program and the college, "To be the best of the best is a standard that we strive for in everything. Unrealistic expectations become the foundation for growth." Dr. Stephenson also took the opportunity to present the AIM award (Advancing Institutional Mission) to Coach Heiar and the Director of Athletics, Ramsey Ross, for their "commitment to improving lives in our community and great efforts to champion NWFSC's mission, vision and values."  

Deshawndre Washington was named the national tournament's Most Valuable Player. Washington, Brennan Rigby and Kam Woods were all named to the All-Tournament Team. Of course, GH was named Coach of the Tournament as the best bench boss at the national tournament. He was also recognized as the conference and national coach of the year. This championship is NWFSC's first men's national title since 2015. Soon after the win, Coach Heiar accepted a position as head coach at New Mexico State. So, how does the future look for men's basketball? Glad you asked!

Guess who is returning to take over the reins? Yes, the coach of the 2015 National Championship team. Coach Steve DeMeo was the Raider's head coach from 2013 to 2019, with an astonishing 170-27 record. During those six years, NWFSC was the winningest JUCO men's program. During his tenure at NWFSC, Coach DeMeo's teams won five Panhandle Conference titles, four FCSAA state championships, three national final four appearances, and in 2015, the NJCAA National Championship. Under his leadership, the Raiders also made three Elite Eight appearances and a 2017 Final Four appearance. The future? Shining like the sun!

Dr. Stephenson commented on Coach DeMeo’s return: "We are pleased to welcome back Coach DeMeo as the men's head basketball coach."  "Northwest Florida State College strives to produce the best student-athletes in this region by providing them with the support, leadership, and resources they need to excel on and off the court. We are confident that they will continue to develop and succeed under Coach DeMeo's leadership and are excited to see what is in store for them next season."

Ramsey Ross voiced the same sentiments: "Our College feels incredibly fortunate to have Coach DeMeo lead our men's basketball program again. His previous tenure here was extraordinary, and we could not be more excited to see what awaits in the next chapter. It was important to us to sustain the tremendous momentum of our men's basketball program from this past season, and we feel bringing Coach DeMeo back to the Raider community does just that." You can become a part of Raider Nation too. 

Read the newspaper (page19)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Golden Anniversary 919th SOW (May 2022-17) Dr. Doug Stauffer, Journalist

Golden Anniversary: 919th Special Operations Wing

By Pastor Doug Stauffer
Faith Independent Baptist Church
Journalist for Bay Life Newspaper
May 2022--Article 17 (2022-05-17)

They say blood runs thicker than water, but I witnessed what happens when colleagues choose to create an enduring bond. With its many branches, this extended family of the 919th Special Operations Wing (SOW) showed the heights achieved through genuine solidarity. I had the distinct pleasure of interacting with one of Okaloosa County's largest families. While they are not literal siblings, they are affectionately known as "America's Citizen Air Commandos." The future is bright because we have men and women willing to serve and sacrifice without much recognition. At the outset, may I express a heartfelt thanks to the 919th SOW from each of us?

One word encapsulates this unit: Camaraderie—I sensed this truth at the informal family Wing Day and the formal anniversary banquet. Yet, these two events hardly scratch the surface of who they are and what they mean to all Americans. The close bonds extend from top to bottom—starting with the Wing Commander throughout the entire organization.

They sacrifice to support the nation's defences at home and at distant points around the globe. The Wing Commander is Colonel Jason Grandy. He stated that "We perform thirteen unique missions and serve as the only Reserve Wing with such a diverse mission. We pride ourselves as quiet professionals; we do not work for the praise, but we want to do a good job because that is what we do. The human capital in our Wing is exceptional." Like most true professionals, he leads by example.

The 919th Special Operations Wing, located at Eglin Air Force Base Field 3 (Duke Field), is the only special operations Wing in the Air Force Reserve. The Wing supports the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC). Its taskings include operations, maintenance, security forces, civil engineering, communications, logistics, supply, transportation services and personnel functions. As Colonel Grandy mentioned, it is the most diverse Wing in the Air Force Reserve Command, performing 13 unique missions.

There are approximately 1,700 members assigned to the 919th Special Operations Wing. Over 1,400 of those are part-time reservists. The Air Reserve Technicians (ARTs) provide the full-time continuity and support to keep the units and members combat-ready. ARTs carry dual status as full-time civil service employees for the U.S. Air Force and participate as reservists. More than 300 ARTs and 47 civilians support the Wing in day-to-day operations.

As the only special operations unit in the Air Force Reserve, the unit has supported Operation Just Cause, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Uphold Democracy, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation New Dawn. The 919th Security Forces Squadron was the first Air Force Reserve unit to be activated to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

Family Wing Day: The Niceville Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce partnered with Duke Field to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. The Chamber's business community donated the funds to provide free "Nice-cream" from Dippin' Dots for the attendees of Family Day. Tricia Brunson, President and CEO of the Niceville Valparaiso Chamber, expressed her appreciation for the 919th with the following comment.

"The mission of Duke Field is to serve, protect and defend our nation. Its proximity to us makes it an integral part of our local economy. They are our friends and neighbors. Their children are students in our schools; their spouses fill employment needs for our businesses, while many reservists work full-time jobs within our community. The 919th Special Operations Wing has been there for us for 50 years, standing ready to keep us safe and our nation strong. They provide us peace of mind while we provide them with a sense of home—a signature asset of Okaloosa County."

The 50th Anniversary Banquet: "50 Years of Valor" was the theme for the evening as the 919th SOW wrapped up the weekend of celebrations with a formal gala. Lt. Colonel James Wilson, the 919th Chief of Public Affairs, said, "The 919th Special Operations Wing is one of the most decorated units in the Reserve. Since the unit's activation in 1971, Reservists from Duke Field have earned 20 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for organizational excellence. Today's standards are closely tied to those pioneers who established the Air Force Reserve's presence at Duke Field more than 50 years ago. This weekend is our opportunity to honor and thank them for showing us what it means to be the 'Best of the Best.'"

Retirees, former commanders, current leaders and everyone in attendance enjoyed reminiscing and learning about the rich history and mission of Duke Field.  Major General Richard S. "Beef" Haddad gave an inspirational speech. Community leaders, Jerry Williams, President/CEO of Eglin Federal Credit Union (EFCU) and the Military Affairs Chair, Teresa Halverson, expressed gratitude for our local military.

The late Brig. Gen. Donald Haugen, the 919th's founding member, created the 919th Tactical Airlift Group in 1971. Judy Haugen is considered the First Lady of the 919th. She is the mother of retired Lt. Colonel Brian Haugen of the Taylor Haugen Foundation. The evening wrapped up by highlighting several annual award winners from the 919th, with Colonel Grandy bringing the closing remarks. 

I caught up with EFCU's Jerry Williams, a major supporter of the anniversary celebrations like so many other community events. "Our loyalty to the military stems from the fact that EFCU's exists because of the military. The credit union was birthed in 1954 because of the military institutions in this area. Many of our employees have worked for the credit union while serving in the Reserve at the 919th. Presently we have two employees in the 919th—they are serving our members one day and our country the next. We are honored to play a small part in such a magnificent endeavor."

Did you know that Niceville Mayor Henkel is a retired Air Commando? The next time you see him, be sure to express your sincere appreciation for his service.

Read the newspaper (page 1 and 2)