COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo - It's a new year so it's only appropriate to remember our 2012 Wear Red Friday Heroes. I have met some very unique personalities on our journey together in our Wear Red Friday campaign to honor the military and those who support them.
The Air Force Academy's Dr. Ron Furstenau is among our select group of honorees. He's a chemistry professor at the Academy. His love for science and how he makes it fun for cadets and the community is why we chose him as one of our Wear Red Friday Heroes. Dr. Ron has been entertaining kids with his love of science for nearly 15 years. His lab coats are filled with pins from schools and groups that want to show their appreciation for them. He told me, "I really enjoy the pins because I appreciate the thought of students and groups giving me those pins. It helps me remember them."
Retired Colonel Bill McPherson isn't just a hero for his service to country. He was an Army combat helicopter pilot who flew over Vietnam. On his 197th mission, he was shot down and severely wounded. Colonel McPherson is also Army Vet helping shore up spirits and mentor medical personnel of Air Force Reservists at Peterson Air Force Base. Colonel Bill as he likes to be called told me, "I enjoy talking with them, relaying a story to them and making them feel that they bring a lot to the fight. There is no greater service to our country than caring for our wounded warriors."
I also had the opportunity to meet the volunteers behind the scene who get all that food together for the Salvation Army dinners on Thanksgiving. Fort Carson is the epicenter of the good home cooking. 28 people on post volunteer to be part of this group bringing smiles to others. This has been going on for nearly 25 years.
Tech Sgt Nick Pospischil is a man who is making the most out of his military career on and off Peterson Air Force Base. He's with the 21st Security Forces Squadron, 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base. Nick's passion for off base training and helping children is what really got my attention and his nomination for our Wear Red Friday Hero. Nick told me, "Whenever I deploy, I try to be pen pals or communicate with a local school. I had some kids in special ed classes at Colorado Springs, King Elementary during a deployment. I really connected with them. It felt really good. I really enjoyed it. I try to give back, because when I was a kid in the Gulf War we had someone do the same with my class back in the early 90's. It was interesting because I thought I got a lot of it.
A December 7th, Pearl Harbor survival story. I had the honor of meeting 90 year old Donald Stratton. He's a man who really lives our Wear Red Friday Hero mantra. Stratton is one of a handful or remaining USS Arizona survivors.
Last year was the 70th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. He went back to the Arizona memorial and told me, "One of the things that hit me is to be back 70 years later and raise the flag over the ship with all my shipmates still aboard. It was kind of, well you know. Maybe you don't know the feeling, I do." Duty, Honor, Country, He's someone who embodies all three of those words.
The Air Force Academy Honor Guard also reinforces what it means to be Wear Red Friday Heroes. They give comfort to grieving families when they need it the most. I attended a recent funeral at the Air Force Academy. Master Sgt Mark Schwartze is a veteran of honor guards here at the Academy and other installations. His take on his job is simple, "It's very rewarding to be given the opportunity to lay to rest, folks who have served sometimes a few months or years or even a whole career." Schwartze knows the pain of being on the honor guard to bury a friend, "It was very touching to bury a friend of yours. One you deployed with and worked with and then come back to the United States where you feel it's safe and have my friend taken out by a drunk driver."
There's an unsung hero who helps make sure that the President's trip and other dignitaries trips to Southern Colorado go off without a hitch. Staff Sgt. Korey Papa is the non-commissioned officer in charge of field management at Peterson Air Force Base. Another job that Sgt. Papa does is a volunteer one. He is among that unseen army who helps gather coats for needy kids for Christmas. Sgt. Papa told me, "I think it's a very important mission here for us to give back to the community. There is a lot of support from Colorado Springs to us, so we like to show our appreciation and show that we are taking care of folks as well."
Martha Reed is a behind the scenes volunteer at Fort Carson whose smile is contagious. She has been a volunteer on post for more than a decade at the Special Events Center. Martha is the person who helps make sure Homecomings and anything else at the Center goes off without a hitch. Martha works 40-50 hours per week with no pay, but she loves what does, "For me to do something for them makes me feel good. It's all for the soldiers." Martha's husband William runs the Special Events Center. She jumped at the chance to help him do whatever needs to be done.
These are just highlights of the stories I did to introduce you to people making a difference in our community on and off their jobs. You can always read their full stories by clicking on the Wear Red Friday Heroes section on KRDO.com.
We've also set up a section for you to nominate someone as a Wear Red Friday Hero, it's in the same section as our stories about our heroes.