Air Force Aid Society helps Airman during time of need

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, GERMANY -- It must be March again, the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, March Madness is in full swing. The Daytona 500 just finished with the anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's death. Baseball spring training started and spring arrives soon. These are all reminders that my daughter, Abby's birthday is here.

Many of you know I have three beautiful girls, but only a few know that I actually have one more beautiful daughter. Very early in the morning March 7, 2001, my wife and I went into the hospital after waiting 40 weeks for our first daughter, Abigayle Victoria Cunningham, and my parents' first granddaughter. Throughout my wife's pregnancy there were no signs of any problems. We were overjoyed at the expectation of becoming first time parents.

As the night turned into day, the doctors and nurses became very concerned, and with all of us viewing the ultrasound, the doctor mustered up enough courage to tell us that Abigayle had died in utero. We all stared at the ultrasound hoping and praying to see her heart beat. It never beat again.

Our world was rocked and we were left with a lot of unanswered questions. We were not prepared to deal with her death. There is no instruction manual on how to deal with a death of a child, or anyone for that matter. 

After taking care of my wife and finally returning home, childless, we had to make arrangements for a funeral. If you have ever had to bury a loved one, you know the cost can be very overwhelming. At the time I was looking to my parents to help defray the cost of the funeral. The cost to bury my daughter was more than $10,000. As a young staff sergeant at the time I definitely did not have that kind of money, especially after spending money toward preparing for Abby's. My first sergeant contacted the Air Force Aid Society and was able to arrange a grant. I will never forget when Master Sgt. Duane Smith stopped by my house and gave me the news of the grant. I originally I thought it was a loan, but Sergeant Smith said it was a grant and I would not need to pay it back. It covered all the funeral expenses and even allowed us to purchase a head stone.

Even though I did not need to pay back the $10,000 grant, I still feel obligated to do my part to assist the Air Force Aid Society. The Air Force Aid Society does so much more. Ask your supervisors and they can probably tell you a story of how someone has been helped by the Air Force Aid Society, with plane tickets home due to a death in the family, a loan to repair a broken vehicle, defraying the cost of breast pumps for women who choose to breastfeed, etc. Unfortunately, at times IN our lives, stuff happens and our world is rocked. We do not know when or where stuff will happen, but fortunately we know that the Air Force Aid Society is there to lend us a hand.

By donating to the Air Force Aid Society, we are assisting our fellow Air Force members in their time of need. They are here for us and I just ask that you give it some serious thought if you can give and/or how much you can give.

~ In Memory of Abigayle Victoria Cunningham, March 7, 2001 ~ 

(Editor's note: The Air Force Assistance Fund running through April 12 accepts donations for the Air Force Aid Society.)