Team Kingsley participates in “Brothers at War” seminar

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173rd Fighter Wing

As September came to a close, more than 400 173rd Fighter Wing Airmen gathered on folding chairs at a large sports venue, listening to a presentation designed to help military members deal with the things that… well, the things we typically don’t talk about.

Col. Lee Bouma, the 173rd Fighter Wing commander, welcomed Kingsley servicemembers and some family members saying, “Today is about taking care of Airmen; this workshop is designed to break down barriers between family members and give insights and strategies that can be integrated into your daily lives to improve communication and interactions.”

Called “Brothers at War”, the day-long seminar chronicled three brother’s experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The day began with an on-the-ground documentary of the two military siblings both deployed many times and reflections from them, their families and the oldest sibling, Jake, who traveled to see them personally in Iraq on two occasions and produced the film.

Kingsley Airmen watched as all-to-familiar themes played out on screen from the uninitiated learning about life in the sandbox, to a brand of humor shared by those who serve in uniform and finally the bond between them all. 

Col. Jack Jacobs, Medal of Honor recipient and Vietnam era Soldier, summed it up saying, “Brothers at War is not just a film about the Rademacher family. It’s a film about my story in Vietnam and my family’s story. It’s a film about all of our families.”

Following the film Jake Rademacher, who personally moderated the event, asked Airmen to begin an exercise in journaling. He asked them to write what they most strongly identified with in the presentation.

One Airman volunteered that he personally related to Jake’s relationship with his brothers, which plays out in the film as he tries to understand their experiences and gain their respect. The Airman related that his brothers are Marines and that he feels the same way at times—trying to earn their respect as a member of the Air Force.

Tech. Sgt. Jessica Vallee, 550th Fighter Squadron, watched as one brother reflected on how the demands of his service changed him and created a sense of growing distance between he and his civilian brothers back home.

She said that resonated with her. “I have an older sister, she’s six years older than me and once I was in high school, we became closer; but now it’s hard to connect with her like I used to.”

She said there were other parts of the film that made her feel like she’d been there too, “It’s so relatable because it’s so real, like home movies that we can all see ourselves there.”

“I think that’s what I was most impressed with,” said Cecily Gaudinski, the Airman and Family Readiness Manager, “just the ability to relate it to any and every personal life.”

Gaudinski coordinated the event finding a suitable venue and coordinating with the Gary Sinise Foundation who sponsors the event at no cost.

“We needed to bring this to our base,” she said when she participated in a shorter version at a recent Airman and Family Readiness training event. 

This training is designed to help servicemembers cope with difficult things, something the last 20 years has seen in abundance from a rising suicide rate to life-altering injuries from IEDs.

Gaudinski said the training helped her personally deal with the aftereffects of suicide affecting a close friend and that her work at A&FR has shown her suicide touches many lives at Kingsley Field.

The training is one of many events from the Resiliency Operations Center that are designed create a sense of community among Kingsley Airmen, and many shared their personal experiences after watching the documentary.