Volume LIXNovember 2012Number 4


Great Adventure Hearts Apart 6 Flags Trip

On Aug. 11, the Warfighter and Family Readiness Center hosted a "Hearts Apart" trip to Six Flags Great Adventure for 110 family members of deployed military personnel from the Joint Base (McGuire-Ft. Dix-Lakehurst). The trip, which cost $7,000, was funded 100 percent by Pennsylvania (PA) Masons. Each family member received a two-park ticket, one for the theme park and another for the Wild Safari. The trip included transportation to the park at 10 a.m., via Academy buses, and options to return to the base every hour, on the hour, from 2 p.m. until 8 p.m. Once in the park, the families were able to go their own way and enjoy the rides and games. PA Masons also paid for the "all-you-can-eat" catered lunch, including cheeseburgers, hot dogs, pasta salad, vegetarian baked beans, tossed salad, cookies, brownies and cold beverages. Each family also received a photograph voucher to capture the memory.

A few families said that they had wanted to go to the park since they arrived to the base but could never afford the trip, and they were very grateful for the opportunity.

"It feels very good to know that members of the community will reach into their own pockets for family members who are left behind during a deployment," said TSgt Justin Ashjian, Family Readiness NCO, Warfighter and Family Readiness Center. "As a father, a military member and a spouse to a military member, I can say the hardest part of the military is being a spouse who is left at home with the kids for long periods of time. The community has done a great job in taking care of our military members before, during and after deployments, and it is nice to know that the families of those members are also being thought about."

Justin coordinates the Help for Our Heroes efforts between the Grand Lodge and the Joint Base. He forwarded the following emails he received from family members after the trip to Col. and Bro. Harris Brooks, Brotherhood Lodge No. 126, Philadelphia:

"ALL POSITIVE!!!!!!!!!!!! There was not one thing that you guys could have done to make this event go any smoother. It was great fun, food and friends :). It was a nice comfy bus ride and great distraction from missing that special deployed one. Thanks for all you do for the families." - D'Metria

"My family enjoyed the trip, and we are very grateful for the generosity. This was the first time my children went to Great Adventure. ... Once again, thank you so much for the tickets; without them, our family would not have been able to go otherwise (because of the expense)." - Alison

"It was a great day! Thanks to you, Mary and the Pennsylvania Masons!" - Jeananne

"I want to thank you for setting everything up and the Masons for funding the trip. ... The girls and I really enjoyed it, and it was nice seeing smiles on their faces with daddy gone. Thanks again." - Kimberly

"The kids & I thoroughly enjoyed it. The fact that someone recognizes the hardships that are placed on the families that are waiting for their loved ones to return is truly priceless. ... Thanks again for all that you do. It is honestly appreciated." - Stew

"I would like to say THANK YOU as my girls and I had a blast! I didn't think I could handle my 4 and 2 1/2 year olds by myself, but I did it (my body is paying for it now!) ... I really want to say how nice it was to take the girls; I would not have been able to afford an outing as nice as that. I attached a picture of the girls on the ferris wheel; they thought it was so cool to be so high up over the trees! Thank you tons and tons!" - Stacy

Family Fun Fest

On Aug. 27, The Joint Base Exceptional Family Member Program hosted a Fun Fest sponsored by the Air Force Aid Society for military families with special needs. The event offered opportunities for families to learn more about resources available to assist them through local and community agencies. Activities included face painting; balloon sculptures made by our own "Chuckles the Clown," also known as Bro. Chuck Lord, Brotherhood Lodge No. 126, Philadelphia, representing "Help for Our Heroes"; crafts; a musical instrument demonstration; a bouncy house; and free backpacks for children donated by the Boys and Girls Club.

Baby Showers

The next military baby shower held jointly with the March of Dimes will take place at the McGuire-Ft. Dix-Lakehurst military base on Nov. 3.

Veterans Courts

Thank you for your tremendous support of the veterans court project! We are still looking for volunteers in the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas, so please continue to contact Bro. Tom Long at 215-520-8826.

We Need Your Help!

Within the next few months, approximately 20,000 PA Army National Guard personnel will redeploy to Afghanistan. The PA National Guard Family Support staff has asked PA Masons to once again support both the deployed soldiers and their families. Bro. Brooks met at the Grand Lodge with several National Guard leaders in August to discuss their requests, and a follow-up planning meeting is scheduled with Bro. Brooks and R.W. Grand Master Jay W. Smith on Nov. 13.

Two major needs include the support of pregnant moms left behind after the deployment of their spouses and assistance for families with household crises. Once again, the Grand Lodge will partner with the March of Dimes in Pennsylvania, as we do in New Jersey, to host baby showers. In addition to valuable education, the parents-to-be will receive financial assistance and necessities for caring for their newborn. Masonic District 2 will oversee the household emergency program.

"Brethren, please continue to give generously to support our men and women protecting our freedoms overseas, as well as their families here at home," said R.W. Grand Master Jay W. Smith. "The amount of support we are able to provide to our PA Stryker Brigade is directly proportionate to the funds we raise among our members to contribute to their needs."

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