Life-changing moment: Injured airman thankful for local support

DOVER — There are times when young airmen at Dover Air Force Base find themselves living in a new state just struggling to get by when they are struck with life-changing situations.

Such was the case last month for Raynard Ian Hughes, a senior airman at Dover Air Force Base, along with his wife, Monika.

Thankfully for them the Delaware Military Support Organization was launched by Dover City Councilman William “Bill” Hare, with the assistance of others, just last year.

“We’re trying to address the needs of active duty airmen,” Mr. Hare said. “There are a lot of good groups out there for veterans, but there’s very few that help meet the needs of the active duty and that’s what we are here to do.”

Mr. Hughes and his wife definitely needed that help — and fast.

Raynard Ian Hughes, a senior airman at Dover Air Force Base, and his wife Monika Hughes (middle) thank Anita Wheeler-Bezy, co-owner of La Baguette Bakery, for help they provided after Mr. Hughes was seriously injured in a car crash in July. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

The senior airman was scheduled to deploy to Turkey for a year on July 22 when he flew in to Baltimore’s Thurgood Marshall Airport the night before.

His wife, Monika, was all set to spend a year with family in Sacramento, California, before the couple would reunite at his next stop in Okinawa, Japan, in 2018.

Before Mr. Hughes’ planned deployment, the couple got rid of their home furnishings, figuring they would save up and buy new items in Japan.
Then disaster struck.

Change in plans

Mr. Hughes had a friend pick him up from the airport the night of July 21. As they were on their way back to DAFB his friend fell asleep while driving and crashed.

The senior airman was airlifted by helicopter to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore just barely clinging to life.

“The first week or two they didn’t know how I was going to end up,” said Mr. Hughes, a jet engine technician.

In the blink of an eye, the couple’s plans had changed.

Monika rushed back to Delaware to be by her husband’s side.

“I was in California and I got a call at 4 a.m. from the hospital saying he was in the trauma center and had been in a car accident and then I was on the first flight within three hours all the way back here,” Mrs. Hughes said. “When I got to the hospital he was asleep with tubes down his throat.”

Despite a stressful 19-day stay in the hospital, Mr. Hughes is now on his way to recovery. It has not, and will not, be an easy road.

“I have had nine plates put on the right side of my face, facial reconstructive surgery, 53 staples in my head to facilitate the surgery, I had a brain bleed and broke my top jaw and bottom jaw,” he said.

“I also broke my T12 vertebrae and the disc exploded pretty much, so I have two rods in my spine, five screws, soft tissue damage in my shoulder, a fractured collarbone, my sternum sustained soft tissue damage, as well, and I broke my nose.”

However, as her husband began the process of mentally and physically recovering from the accident, she realized that they suddenly had no place to live and no home furnishings left.

“They had some second-hand furniture that they had sold because they were going to buy new furniture after he left Turkey and they were going to Okinawa,” Mr. Hare said. “So when this happened, they just had nothing.”

Pastor Ted Henderson, the president of the Dover Capital City Rotary Club who is also on the board of the Delaware Military Support Organization, said he has seen this kind of situation unfold before.

“It was like they were basically homeless, just like that,” Pastor Henderson said. “A lot of these kids don’t make a lot of money being a brand new airman, so any help that any organization can give to them is welcome.

“Being a (former Air Force) chaplain, we used to hear all these difficult stories of young people struggling with various financial difficulties and other calamitous events that happened in their lives. That’s why the Delaware Military Support Organization just sounded like a good thing to be involved with.”

DMSO, businesses offer help

The nonprofit organization reached out to the Dover business community and is helping the Hughes’ get back on their feet.

It’s My Style furniture store in Dover donated more than $1,500 in home furnishings, La Baquette Bakery provided them with bread and various other food items to help fill their pantry and Home2 Suites by Hilton gave the couple a two-night stay in Dover before their new furniture was delivered to their apartment in Leander Lakes.

Suddenly, with the help of the Delaware Military Support Organization, the Hughes’ are slowly recovering.

The couple made a trip, along with Mr. Hare and Mr. Henderson, to the three Dover businesses that directly contributed to their cause on Monday to offer their personal thanks.

“I think it’s awe-inspiring,” said Anita Wheeler-Bezy, co-owner of La Baguette. “I’m an Air Force brat myself so we like to support anything related to the Air Force, and anyway that we can help we always like to help.”

Mrs. Hughes said she doesn’t know what they would have done without the assistance they received from the DMSO.

“They’ve provided us with a tremendous amount of help,” she said. “Before the deployment we got rid of a lot of our furniture trying to lighten the load for our next fall on base, which was Okinawa. We figured we’ll get a new couch and other new things after we save up from (his) deployment, so we got rid of it all.

“And then this happened and he was hospitalized and once he got out we were like, ‘Whoa. We don’t have a bed or a couch or anything like that.’ We were fortunate enough for them to help us.”

Ashley Oakey, sales manager at the It’s My Style furniture store in north Dover, said her business was more than happy to assist.

“We were happy to do whatever we could do to help,” Ms. Oakey said. “Bill (Hare) came in and he showed me a picture of the (crashed) car and I just teared up. I’m just so glad that he’s OK and to see that he’s in (the store) walking around is just great.”

It’s a start, said Mrs. Hughes.

“By this time next year the doctors say he will be brand new,” she said, of her husband. “They say that you will never even know he was in a car accident and they’re confident in his recovery.”

Future plans for organization

Mr. Hare said that the Delaware Military Support Organization has already helped three active duty members at DAFB in need and is hoping to expand its mission.
Hare, a councilman in the second district, said his group has helped some of the organizations on the base such as the First Sergeants’ Angel Tree and Good Shepherd Fund, which provide Thanksgiving baskets for the airmen.

That actually gave him an idea.

“When new airmen come to the base and are single they get a room but they don’t have any of the amenities for the room and we were wondering if we could help them get baskets for them,” Mr. Hare said. “So we’re working on that right now.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can do to help and we’ve got a lot of people in the community that will help. It’s just good that there are people out there willing to help.”

Mr. Hare said the organization is also hoping to unveil a webpage in the near-future.

The Delaware Military Support Organization will also benefit from all proceeds from beer sales at Fordham & Dominion’s upcoming Cheesetoberfest at the brewery on Oct. 7.

From left, Dover City Councilman William “Bill” Hare, Monika Hughes, Waste Industries General Manager Allen Thienpont, Raynard Ian Hughes and Ted Henderson gather in front of Dover’s City Hall for a check presentation of $1,000 from Waste Industries to the Dover Military and Readiness Organization on as part of its Full Circle Project on Monday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Waste Industries offers its assistance

Allen Thienpont, general manager of Waste Industries, presented a check for $1,000 to the Delaware Military Support Organization at Dover’s City Hall on Monday morning.

Mr. Thienpont said the organization’s philosophy of helping the local community fit right in with his company’s.

“I met Bill (Hare) a few years ago and he told me about his organization Delaware Military Support and at Waste Industries we really believe in giving back to the communities we live and work in,” he said.

“So I reached out to Bill and we’ve been talking and it’s just a good opportunity for us to give back to this local community with military support here in Dover. This is our first contribution to this organization and we’re looking forward to working together going forward.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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