Freedom Miles helps spouses reach deployed Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Alessandra N. Hurley
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Two Ellsworth family members have put their minds together to come up with a way for spouses to unite, maintain good mental and physical health and foster a sense of community and connection during deployments.

Lori Waddell and Master Sgt. David Booker, 28th Force Support Squadron Bellamy Fitness Center section chief, dreamed up the idea called Freedom Miles. The program was named to honor those who fight for America's freedom.

"As a child growing up, my grandfather used to always tell my brother and I that if it weren't for the military fighting to protect our freedom, we wouldn't be free," said Mrs. Waddell, key spouse and wife of Staff Sgt. Mitch Waddell, 28th FSS lodging and guest services manager. "I felt Freedom Miles would be the best name for the program."

Sergeant Booker said he came on board with the project to help improve it in order to better serve the needs of the community.

"The idea, which had its original test run last year, came to me while walking with a friend when our husbands were deployed," Mrs. Waddell said. "We used to go for two-to-four-hour walks and just talk. One day I began wondering how many miles we were walking and how many it would take to walk to our husbands in their deployed location."

From that idea, Freedom Miles was born. Soon the two-spouse walk grew to a group of ten spouses coming together and walking through the neighborhood.

"The purpose of our walks was to get out of the house, get active and exchange information about agencies on base," Mrs. Waddell said. "As a key spouse, I find walking and talking to be more effective for passing along useful information to help other spouses than speaking over the phone."

Mrs. Waddell said she hopes uniting spouses by getting them involved in Freedom Miles will allow them to realize they can rely upon each other as resources of knowledge about anything from recipes to names of baby-sitters. She also hopes giving them mini-goals to complete a number of miles each week will help them by giving them something to work toward.

"My three goals for this program are to unite spouses; unite squadrons by inspiring squadron pride as well as Air Force pride; and teach spouses about all of the facilities and resources they can utilize to help make time go by faster and deployments easier," she said.

By filling up their days with activities spent in the company of other spouses, Mrs. Waddell said she hopes to eliminate isolation some spouses can experience, especially during winter months when many opt to stay indoors and don't socialize with others as much.

"One spouse came to me and told me she was grateful we met on Sundays," Mrs. Waddell said. "When her husband was deployed, she said Sundays were the loneliest days for her because those had been the days she was used to spending the most time with him."

Sergeant Booker said building a support network with other spouses who are going through the same experiences and participating in fun events can help spouses find relief from the burden of separation.

"By having different activities to get involved in, spouses aren't as stressed and time doesn't hang heavy on them," Sergeant Booker said. "With the Freedom Miles program, Mrs. Waddell and I are hoping to get spouses moving, give them opportunities to make friends and help them develop a sense of belonging through community involvement."

Spouses can get started by picking up a passport from Sergeant Booker at the Bellamy Fitness Center which they will use to receive stamps from various 28th FSS employees at different locations after an activity such as bowling at the Bandit Lanes bowling alley.

"Every Wednesday, spouses bring in the passport to me with their stamps and I will tally up their mileage based on the activities they participated in," Sergeant Booker said. "Once I have the mileage logged, I will update their progress by moving a small paper plane labeled with their name and sponsor's squadron along a huge map posted on the wall across from the aerobics room."

Sergeant Waddell who has been deployed more than once said he finds programs for spouses beneficial for accomplishing the mission by affording him enough peace of mind to concentrate on work.

"Because of programs for spouses, I don't have to worry about my wife being on her own because I know she is part of a community who will support her if she gets hurt, help her stay active and keep her informed so she can do what she needs to do," he said.