Brain Tumor Interrupts Cadet's Plan
Filed under Region Hq, Alabama Wing, Florida Wing, Georgia Wing, Mississippi Wing, Puerto Rico Wing on Wednesday, June 29, 2016 by Author: Lt. Col. Robert Sims.

Young, bright, ambitious — he had plans. 

They did not include, however, a time when he found himself texting his parents that he was about to get up from his college classroom to go to the emergency room because “I think I’ve had a stroke.”

But that’s exactly what happened to Cadet Maj. Austin Alonso. His trip to the emergency room led to a brain tumor diagnosis, which led to surgery, which is now leading to more surgery.

How life changed
It seemed as if one day Alonso was an ambitious student in his second year at the University of South Florida in Tampa, successfully juggling academic classes and memberships in both Air Force ROTC and the Florida Wing’s Gen. Chuck Yeager Cadet Squadron. Then the next day he was simply a very ill patient. 

But the road between these two extremes was actually more protracted and subtle.

Capt. Keith Barry, Alonso’s CAP unit commander at the time, noticed something different about Alonso at the Florida Wing’s winter encampment at Tyndall Air Force Base in December. There were changes in his speech, and he seemed to sleep a lot. 

At Christmas, Alonso’s mother, Jennifer Brummer, was alarmed to find he had lost some hearing and his face was numb on one side. Though left-handed, he started to write with his right hand when his left just didn’t seem to work anymore.

But he was 19, making his own decisions. He had plans to go into the Air Force and didn’t want a medical record that showed him as anything but healthy. 

Then came that day in January and he could no longer ignore his physical symptoms.

Grim realities
For Alonso’s mother, “It felt like someone took a bowling ball and said, ‘Here, catch!’” When she got her son’s text, she immediately got up from her job in Fort Myers and drove to Alonso in Tampa. There, at the hospital, she experienced shock after shock — he has a brain tumor, he needs surgery, he’s in the ICU, he can’t walk. 

The one piece of good news was that the tumor was not malignant. But its position, pressing on the brain stem, still made it deadly.

Unfortunately, surgeons in Tampa were able to remove only about 60 percent of the tumor; the rest had grown into Alonso’s brain, intertwined with nerves and blood vessels. The hope was that, as the brain swelling subsided, the tumor would drop down, making it more accessible in a subsequent surgery.

 Alonso spent a month in the hospital after the first surgery and wasn’t anxious to undergo another operation. But, according to Brummer, the doctor looked him straight in the eye and told him that, without another surgery, he could expect to lose any ability to walk or care for himself and would be dead in two-to-five years. 

That frank assessment convinced the cadet he would need to tough out another surgery, and his mother began a search for “the best of the best” to perform it. She found what she was looking for at Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. There, in early July, Alonso will undergo a day of pre-op, followed by the surgery, a hospital stay and then a stay in a nearby hotel before returning home.

Money matters
The medical issues are just one side of this tremendous challenge. Now come the bills. The family has medical insurance, but out-of-pocket expenses are already into the thousands. Because Alonso had scholarships and loans at college, when he was forced to drop out those had to be repaid to the university. They also lost the income Alonso brought in from work. 

And his treatment in the Tampa area meant meals out and lodging expenses for the family, who lived elsewhere. Brummer pared down some of these costs by moving a camper to a campsite near Tampa. North Carolina will entail similar out-of-pocket costs.

Therapy for Alonso is another potentially costly necessity. The family’s insurance limits therapy to just 20 sessions, but with the position of Alonso’s tumor affecting motor skills, as opposed to intelligence, a variety of therapies — physical, occupational and speech — are required. Twenty sessions does not go far.

Finally, there is fear Alonso’s father is in danger of losing his job. His company was bought out and layoffs are happening routinely.

What can be done
The family is accepting monetary donations through GoFundMe.com. Alternatively, to avoid the site’s percentage take, checks, made payable to “Austin A. Alonso,” in addition to get-well wishes can be sent to: 814 Alido Ave., Lehigh Acres, FL 33971. 

The outpouring of support from CAP has already been amazing, Brummer said. 

As for Alonso, now 20, his mother reported he is just anxious to get back to his life. He has transferred his CAP membership to the local Charlotte Composite Squadron in Punta Gorda, where he attends weekly meetings despite his limited vision and gait abnormalities. And he has already started the paperwork to get back to the books at a local college after his next surgery. 

Brummer said her son has long had a career in the Air Force as his Plan A. “But he is resilient, and, if that is not possible, I know he has a Plan B.”


FLWG Graduates 4 at National Inspector General College
Filed under Florida Wing on Saturday, June 25, 2016 by Author: Lt. Col. Joyce Nader.

The recent graduating class of the 2016 National Inspector General College held in Peachtree City, GA included a record 4 members of the FLWG Inspector General Corp. These FLWG Assistant Inspector General’s (IGA) included Maj Sam Chiodo, FL 310, Hillsborough One Senior Squadron, Maj Robert Corriveau, FL 376, Marco Island Senior Squadron, Maj Adrian Cuarta, FL 182 Pinellas Senior Squadron and Maj Steven Makkay, FL 049 Ormond Beach Composite Squadron.

The Inspector General College is the final course in a three-part training program for CAP Inspectors General.  Completion of this course fulfills the academic requirement of the “Master Level” specialty rating in the CAP Professional Development Program for Inspectors General.  This course is required for a member to serve as an Inspector General at the Wing level or higher. Currently the College is held every 2 years.

The Inspector General College is an intense and challenging weeklong training regimen grounded in Scenario Based Training (SBT) methods preferred by industry and government. These SBT methods included mock interviews as well as simulated analysis and investigations.

It was also a valuable networking opportunity for attendees. Some of these attendees included the National Vice Commander, Brig General Larry Myrick, as well as Region Commanders, Region Vice Commanders and Wing Commanders.

 

Maj Cuarta, Commander of FL 182, Pinellas Senior Squadron, and an IGA for FLWG, was very pleased to be among the attendees, and to have successfully completed the rigorous course, exclaiming, “It was a very intense and busy week, where days and evenings were filled with lectures, group exercises, homework, and even an exam…but it was an experience I would not trade, for I learned a lot from the very qualified and varied instructors…some from CAP USAF…and the networking opportunities and camaraderie was something truly unique and valuable. I encourage others to attend when the IG College is held again in 2018.”

 




Longtime CAP Member Retires from CAP
Filed under Region Hq, Florida Wing, Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters, Florida Feature on Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Author: Maj. Earle Bretz.

 Longevity?? THIS is Longevity! !

Civil Air Patrol Captain Fred W. Linde, at the age of 91, was officially retired from CAP with honors at a recent ceremony.  Fred originally joined in 1946 just after he got out of the US Navy serving in World War II. (Remember that CAP was established on December 1, 1941).  A highlight of his service, other than surviving being shot at, was the fact he was on the first amphibious ship to arrive in Tokyo Bay for the signing of the surrender papers on the USS Missouri to end the war with Japan.  

Tiring of civilian life, Fred then enlisted in the Air Force just in time to get involved in the Berlin Airlift of 1947-48.  A few years later he was called to serve in Korea during the Korean War.  He left active duty status, but remained in the reserves.  His county again needed his services in the Vietnam War serving in combat operations in Saigon.  This proud veteran served his country well in 3 wars earning 23 decorations and awards, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, Air Force Commendation, Navy Citation and the Medal for Humane Action (Berlin).

In 1970, he once again left the Air Force for the civilian life as a High School Teacher, travel agent, lately involved with three travel agencies and a tour company. He also saw employment with United Airlines, Japan Air Lines, TWA and American Airlines.

With his many calls to serve his country, Fred's CAP career never did settle down until he joined the Charlotte County Composite Squadron in 2008.  His duties included Scanner, Observer and Pilot.  He served his squadron, city, state and nation with extreme diligence.  We have been very proud and fortunate  to have had the chance to serve with this very
capable officer.  His mates wish all the best in the future.  Fred says, "It's been one great ride!"  " I think I did it all!"  Sure does look like it, Fred.

CAP is the Congressional Gold Medal winning Auxiliary of the United States Air Force, celebrating its 75th year of serving America.  Tax deductible donations may be sent to Charlotte Squadron, 28000 A-21 Airport Road, Punta Gorda, FL 33982-2452.  Visit us at FL051/flwg.us


Color Guard presents at Armed Forces Day Ceremony
Filed under Florida Wing, Cadet Programs, Group 2 on Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Author: 1st Lt Elena Lee.

Cadets and Senior Members from Lake County's joined forces with the daughters of the American Revolution to honor Lake County Veterans at the Royal Palms Conference Center. At the event more than 200 of lake's veterans were in attendance, as well as Congressional Representative Larry Mets who was one of the guest speakers for the event. One of the stirring moments of the night was the presentation of our Nations Flag by the all female Color Guard of Lake County's Civil Air Patrol (which is a first for this squadron) to begin the nights ceremony. The color guard practiced tirelessly for over two months, under the direction of Cadet Lt Colonel Alyxandra Swanson to make this a night one to remember for our veterans. Also, the Commander of the Squadron, Colonel Larry Rogers, gave a great speech on the importance of the Civil Air Patrol for the future leaders of our great country and to the military. During the event, veterans of all our wars were called to the stage and presented with a pin and a certificate and thanked deeply for their service to secure our American freedoms that we all hold dear. A spotlight shown on a table set for the brave men and women who never made it back, but who paid the ultimate price as a bag piper played Amazing Grace in the background.  Not a dry eye in the building could be found.          




Civil Air Patrol Member Participates in Historic First Honor Flight
Filed under Region Hq, Florida Wing, Group 5 on Tuesday, June 21, 2016 by Author: 1st Lt. Don Binner.

An Honor Flight departed from Naples Municipal Airport on 11 June, 2016 for Washington, DC with 66 women veterans aboard. The Collier County Honor Flight was the first to leave from Naples Municipal airport and the first to honor only women veterans. The female veterans represented all branches of the military and major conflicts from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Honor Flight participants included Jessica Stearns, USAF ret. Major Stearns is the former commander of Civil Air Patrol’s Naples Senior Squadron.

The busy day started at 6:30am with the veterans assembling at the Naples Commercial Terminal for registration. The women were treated to a free hot breakfast and coffee. They socialized while preparing for an 8:05am departure on Elite Airlines.

The flight arrived on time in Washington where the group boarded their daylong, private bus tour complete with a Capitol City Police escort. From the airport, they proceeded to the National World War II Memorial where they were greeted by Senator Bob Dole.

Stearns said, “I had previously met the Senator in 1974 and it was a thrill to meet him again.”

The tour continued with a visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Lunch was served during the visit to the Women in Military Service for America Memorial where time was taken to make a group photo.

After lunch, the veterans visited Arlington National Cemetery to observe a Changing of the Guard and wreath-laying ceremony. The tour continued to the Marine Corps War Memorial and concluded at the United States Air Force Memorial. The Vets then boarded their bus and the police escorted the privileged visitors to their awaiting flight back to Naples.

The Elite Airline jet departed for Naples for an 8:30pm arrival. During the return flight, the guests received an additional surprise: Mail Call! During midflight, the women were given letters from friends, relatives, Florida U.S. Senators, State Representatives, and local civic organizations. The letters congratulated them on the historic flight and their military service. Each participant also received a Challenge Coin to commemorate the event.

One more surprise awaited the group upon arriving in Naples. When the group entered the terminal, each Vet was presented with a personal copy of the group photo that was made earlier in the day at the Women's Memorial.

Former CAP Group 5 Commander, Lt. Col. Ray Rosenberg, attended the celebration of the returning Honor Flight and said, “What an exciting time it was at APF Saturday evening.”

As they walked through the terminal building, over 400 cheering family and friends greeted the Honor Flight participants. The accolades for the historic flight and honored guests continued outside where over 600 community friends and neighbors celebrated the local heroes.

“We had a great flight crew, very attentive and gracious,” said Stearns. “I had a fabulous trip, a very emotional trip. This will be one of the most treasured days in my life.”

Air Force veteran, Jessica Stearns, is greeted by crowd as Veterans Honor Flight returns. 



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