A1C Kelly Carr (left) and SrA. Michael Beatty (right) pose for a photo at Beatty's family home in Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving 2017. Carr has since been "adopted" by Beatty's mom, Amy, who's a member of Air Force M.O.M.S. B.M.T. Photo courtesy of A1C Kelly Carr.
A grassroots initiative led by an independent, unofficial organization of Air Force parents, families, and spouses is helping to match up airmen stationed or deployed far from home with USAF families willing to “adopt” them for the holidays.
The group, Air Force M.O.M.S. B.MT., started approximately seven years ago as a Facebook group aimed at helping these individuals support each other as their airmen prepared for and went through Basic Military Training, but has since grown into a massive network of related Facebook groups tailored to provide airmen’s loved ones with resources to help them through every step of their airmen’s military careers.
“We are not just for moms,” the group’s founder, Lorraine Silva, told Air Force Magazine. “Our M.O.M.S. B.M.T. is an acronym for mentoring our military supporters, and bringing many together.”
Moms from the group—starting with Silva—began adopting these displaced airmen long before the initiative had a name.
The idea for the outreach effort began when Silva and her husband decided to surprise their daughter after she realized her assignment to JB Andrews AFB, Md., made spending the holidays at home in California an impossibility.
“Our daughter was not gonna be able to come home for Christmas, and, so, we always joking say, ‘If Muhammad can’t get to the mountain, get the mountain to Muhammad,’” Silva said.
A plane-ticket purchase and a bit of packing later—including one suitcase dedicated solely to food—the impromptu visit led Silva to her cooking for and hosting a group of about 20 airmen at her daughter’s home.
But the organization’s heart for these airmen was seemingly contagious.
Jenny Young adopted SrA. Erika Poulter in 2015. She first met Poulter in passing when her youngest son graduated from basic military training in December 2013; she was a member of his sister flight.
Later, in 2015, her son asked his mom if she’d be willing to link up with Poulter, who was now a college student in Tennessee. Young said that, at the conclusion of an hours-long lunch they spent “just talking,” she asked Poulter if she had any local family; her nearest relatives were all the way in Pennsylvania.
“‘Well,’ I said, ‘if you want one, you have a family now, right here in Tennessee,’” Young recounted.
Poulter, a hydraulic jet maintainer based out of Dobbins AFB, Ga, agreed.
“I just felt like I was going home when I met them,” she said.
Since that first meeting, Young said, they’ve shared birthdays, Thanksgivings and Easters, and more. Poulter said Young and her husband, Brian, even care for her cats when she’s out of town.
“They’re my Tennessee parents,” she said. “I see them at least once a week.”
And in 2017, Amy Beatty, a Pennsylvania-based Air Force mom, welcomed USAF Honor Guard member A1C Kelly Carr into her home after her son, SrA. Michael Beatty, asked if he could bring a friend home with him for Thanksgiving.
The two met in basic training—Beatty was in his big-brother flight—and then went to tech school together at Lackland AFB, Texas. Carr had only met Amy—whom he affectionately calls “Mama Beatty”—once before. After that holiday, though, he said, “it was just like another home away from home, and she just kept having me come back.”
Carr, a member of the USAF Honor Guard who calls JB Anacostia-Bolling in Washington home, admitted that he’d “definitely” not have fallen into this accidental family without peer pressure from his best friend, but said it was a “much-needed weekend off” and provided refuge from being around all things military.
“It’s definitely something that will make you happy that you did it, because it turns into … not just a holiday thing, but somewhere you can go… on the weekend to hang out, because you know this person and they become like family to you,” Carr explained.
The feeling’s definitely mutual.
“Kelly’s one of my kids,” the elder Beatty said, noting that he’s got his own key to her house and “comes and goes as he pleases.” She noted that she’s got multiple adopted airmen, though not all of them come to visit outside of the holidays.
The process of finding second homes for these airmen has since become more formalized, as word spreads and more families step up to the plate to become hosts.
“This year, we have over 250 homes,” Silva said. “We will be placing over 350 airmen, and this also includes some of our houses adopting from other branches.”
Despite the initiative’s growth, the act of hosting is still incredibly secure, since members of the Air Force M.O.M.S. B.M.T. group are all vetted for security reasons, and operational and personal security are the group’s foremost priorities. In occasional cases where active-duty officers reach out to the organization offering to host airmen, they are also vetted to verify that they are who they claim, to be to ensure the service members’ safety.
While this year’s round of airmen-family matchmaking is just about done, Silva encourages Air Force parents to join the Air Force M.O.M.S. B.M.T. Main Group on Facebook if they’re interested in getting their airmen linked up with local families—for holiday hosting or general moral support—or if they just looking to feel less alone in the USAF family experience. And if an airman wants to reach out to the group on their own to be matched up next holiday season, she said they should email Airforcemomsbmt@gmail.com.
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Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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