Despite their distinguished status as the wives of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody, Betty Welsh and Athena Cody casually fit in the circle of chatting coffee-drinking ladies like they’ve been here their entire lives. Maybe it was their smiles, or their easy manner or perhaps their commitment to honoring the service, strength and sacrifices of military families.
General Welsh is scared to death of what will happen when we have a girl,” Welsh, grandmother of three boys, said with a laugh, drawing chuckles from her audience. Welsh bounced four-month-old Hope, daughter of Capt. Jeremy Phifer, 480th Maintenance Squadron and Valynda Phifer, on her knee. Hope’s big blue eyes took in her surroundings as Welsh and Cody listened to each woman’s story with inviting smiles.
The eclectic group, mothers of rowdy children and caretakers of animal companions, active duty spouses and dependent wives, has one thing in common: their spouse is deployed, and they are left behind to hold down the fort…alone.
It’s the little things that remind the spouses of their deployed loved ones…the empty chair at the dinner table, the forgotten sock under the couch, the pacing dog that waits anxiously for his missing master.
These spouses represent a small fraction of the spouses and families at Spangdahlem Air Base who keep supporting the mission, even when their military spouse is continents away. For this visit, Welsh and Cody’s mission was simple: relay the Air Force’s appreciation for the family, to the family. According to the duo, it isn’t just the Air Force that supports the family; the family also supports the Air Force.
“Continue to encourage each other,” Cody said. “There are many family members today who need that support. They need your help through today’s challenges, and they’ll most definitely need others for the challenges of tomorrow.”
For these spouses, those challenges of tomorrow will come, but today is another day to give back to the Air Force through support of each other at home and their spouses abroad.
“Keeping the home front going means so much to our military members,” Welsh said. “You make us proud. We know the mission, and we appreciate how you support that mission. Thank you for supporting our Air Force.”
And as the group gathered up their things to face another day without their spouses, it was no coincidence that tiny Hope was still smiling in Welsh’s arms, a small personification of the strength that keeps Air Force families going.