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113 AW provides foundation leaders insight into F-16s and Wing mission

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bozard, 113 AMXS Squadron Commander, explains how F-16 afterburners work to business leaders from The Kaplan Public Service Foundation in the 113 AW hangar, April 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tyrell Heaton/Released)

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bozard, 113 AMXS Squadron Commander, explains how F-16 afterburners work to business leaders from The Kaplan Public Service Foundation in the 113 AW hangar, April 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tyrell Heaton/Released)

Col. Andrew Donnelly, 113 OG Commander, welcomes civic leaders from The Kaplan Public Service Foundation in the 113 AW hangar, April 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tyrell Heaton/Released)

Col. Andrew Donnelly, 113 OG Commander, welcomes civic leaders from The Kaplan Public Service Foundation in the 113 AW hangar, April 22. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Tyrell Heaton/Released)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Twenty-five business leaders, who are part of The Kaplan Public Service Foundation, were welcomed to the 113 AW April 22 for a static tour of the F-16s.

David and Mitchell Kaplan founded The Kaplan Public Service Foundation with the goal of encouraging American civilians to become more involved in the support of members in all military services.

"The question we are most often asked is what motivated us, two attorneys in the real estate business, without military backgrounds, to become so passionate about supporting our troops," said David Kaplan, President of the Kaplan Public Service Foundation. "For me, the answer was Joseph Dow Covey, a former co-worker of mine, who quit his job on Wall Street to join the Army shortly after 9/11.

To show support for their friend, Mitchell and David sent Joe and his men numerous care-packages during his two tours of duty in Iraq. But it was an email, sent by Joe on New Year's Eve, 2008 that led them to become much more involved than just sending junk food and movies.

Joe's email was mostly factual, talking about where his platoon was based, the Arabic nick-name given to him by the locals ("Mullazem Yusef," Arabic for "Lieutenant Joseph") and the various fire fights he and his men encountered.

While Joe had been on a brief visit to Kuwait, his former platoon, the 4th of the Black Sheep, was attacked by a suicide bomber. Seven Soldiers -- one quarter of his former men -- were seriously injured in the attack. The worst of the injured, a Soldier, is now lying in a coma at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"Knowing Joe couldn't be there and sensing his terrible guilt for not being with these men at the time of the attack, I boarded a train to D.C. to visit the injured man, "said Mr. David Kaplan" "I knew my visit would mean a lot to Joe, but I didn't anticipate the impact the hospital visit would have on me."

"What I saw at Walter Reed was numbing. The hospital, despite the negative reporting at the time, appeared gorgeous. As I made my way up to the injured soldier's room, I must have passed at least five Soldiers, both men and women, all with missing limbs. As I walked into the room of the injured Soldier I had come to see, I was immediately struck by the devastation this injury had on both the Soldier and his family. The Soldier in front of me was barely 20 years old, and he was missing a large part of his head. At his bedside were his 19 year-old wife and their beautiful newborn baby daughter. He couldn't speak, eat without the help of a feeding tube, or move most parts of his body."

"I introduced myself to the injured Soldier's parents and wife who still appeared to be in a state of shock. All were deeply touched that their son's former platoon leader would have a friend visit in his place while he was still fighting in Iraq. I tried speaking a few encouraging words from Joe to the injured soldier, never knowing whether he heard or understood them. From that moment on, I knew I had to do anything I could to get American civilians more involved in their support for our troops and their families regardless of their personal positions on either war," said Mr. Kaplan.

"Today's public support of our war fighters is actually very high," said Mr. Kaplan. "According to a 2010 Harris Poll, Americans trust the military more than any other institution. It's great to hear people say, 'support our troops,' but relatively few do anything to back up these words, unless they are a family member or close friend of someone serving. This isn't a result of the American public's lack of interest or care. Quite the contrary; I believe it's mostly a factor of people not knowing how to help or even where to get started."

David and his brother Mitchell have sent out almost 100 care packages during the past three years mostly to people whom they have never met. Mitchell became so close with one unit in Afghanistan that he actually played a very minor role during a Taliban attack one winter's night. Hand warmers he had sent that unit kept their fingers warm when returning enemy fire.

"Something as simple as a $25 care package filled with junk food, hand warmers and old DVD movies makes both you and these recipients feel great," said Mr. Kaplan.
The Kaplan Public Service Foundation has no staff and conducts one trip a year for approximately 25 to 35 civilian business leaders.

The members not only visited the 113 AW and Andrews Air Force Base they also visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Capitol Hill and The Marine Corps Barracks.

"I try to make our trips both educational and fun for the participants. But most importantly, I like to show our servicemen and servicewomen that civilians are not only paying attention and interested, but sincerely care about their well-being," said Mr. Kaplan.

The Kaplan Public Service Foundation donated a check to Walter Reed Army Medical Center April 21 and wrote a five thousand dollar check for the Air Force Aid Society April 22.

"Today fewer than one percent of all Americans are serving in the Armed Forces. The fact that some of these men and woman are now on their fourth or even fifth tours is nothing short of tragic. The toll it has taken on both them and their families is well documented. Ask yourself, what have we as Americans sacrificed over the last nine years of war? We civilians haven't been asked by our government to sacrifice much nor have we been inconvenienced in any way. My hope is to do everything in my limited power to reverse this trend."