by Lois Walsh
Team Eglin Public Affairs
9/2/2009 – EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The time-honored tradition of celebrating promotion with a party was rewritten by five lieutenant colonels ready to pin on new rank.
When Lt. Cols. Donald Finley, Gregory McNew, Mel Petersen, Charles Greenwald, and Doug Hagen were notified of their selection to colonel, they collectively decided to give back to the community. Instead of spending money on food and drinks, they donated the party funds to the Fisher House.
The Fisher House provides free or low cost lodging to veterans and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers. Construction is currently underway across from Eglin’s Regional Hospital on Boatner Road. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for fall 2010.
Tom Rice, vice president of the Fisher House Board of Directors said the donation is a welcomed addition to their fundraising.
“In our resort area, it is difficult for families to find lodging,” Mr. Rice said. A retired First Sergeant for the United States Army, Mr. Rice said the donation is “a gift that keeps on giving.
“At military functions like dining outs, we always have a table set to one side to remember those who were not able to attend,” he said. “In the same vein, everyone is able to attend this promotion party through their donation and it is a way to honor veterans well into the future.”
Colonel Greenwald, 46th Operation Group, said the idea of donating the funds grew after difficulty with the logistics of setting up a party. Since Lt. Col. Gregory McNew was reassigned and Lt. Col. Douglas Hagen was deploying, it complicated matters. He also said that giving back to the local community, and Fisher House, is part of the Air Force tradition of service before self.
“It got to the point where it was fairly anticlimactic as we tried to hang with tradition,” he said. “I don’t know what sparked it (the donation), but it felt a little better to me personally,” he said.
Colonel Finley, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, handled the arrangements for the official check presentation. He said donating to the Fisher House made sense.
“They need help; it’s something military related, prominent and not military funded, so it seemed like a great choice,” the colonel said.
Colonel Petersen, who is assigned to the 53rd Wing, agreed.
“We thought ‘let’s pick a good charity and it will go to a good cause,'” he said. “In the end, everyone thought Fisher House was a worthy cause and needed a boost in their resources and visibility to help put it back on peoples’ scope.”
The donated funds will be used to keep the Fisher House operational after its opening.