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Spring 2012 

Our Mission: Supporting National Guard Families  
182nd Infantry Unit Homecomings Sponsored by Guard Support
Families await their loved ones
Anxious families look on as soldiers arrive at the unit's Homecoming on March 28, 2012 at the Middleborough Armory.


The 1st Battalion,182nd Infantry Regiment deployed
800 Guardsmen to Afghanistan in March 2011. These soldiers were united with their families in late March 2012 at Homecoming celebrations at Massachusetts National Guard Armories in Ayer, Braintree, Middleborough, and Melrose. 


Guard Support's Family Readiness Group (FRG) grant program provided grants totaling $5,000 to the five 1-182nd Infantry unit FRGs to help pay for the homecoming celebrations. FRGs are family support groups that provide critical support, assistance and connections to family members left behind during a military separation. 
D Co 182nd in Formation
D Co. 182nd Infantry soldiers arrive to waiting loved ones at the Middleborough Armory on March 28, 2012.
Guard Support is the only organization that provides start-up funding for FRGs. 
Since the FRG program was launched in the summer of 2007, the organization has funded over 100 FRGs. Several sponsors help to fund the FRG program including TD Charitable Foundation, TD Bank and Lockheed Martin.    


"We w
ould like to thank Guard Support for the FRG grants awarded to C Co. 1/182 Infantry FRG during our recent deployment. These grants gave us a jump start. We have had a successful year because of this. Thank you very much for being there to help - your support makes all the difference." 
- Laura Erickson, Chair, C Co. 1-182 Infantry FRG

D Co 182nd INF Family reunited
A family is finally reunited after being separated for over one year.



"Thanks to Guard Support we were able to produce 

D Co. 1-182nd INF t-shirts for our families and to sell as a fundraiser. We also used FRG grant funds and t-shirt merchandise sales towards our Homecoming Celebration. We couldn't have done it without the financial support provided to us by Guard Support. We can't say enough about the thrill and pride of every family member who wears their shirt, as they help us show us how proud we are to be connected with our soldiers, our heroes! Thank you Guard Support!!!" 

- Bethany Pinard, Co-chair, D Co. 1-182nd Infantry FRG      


Guard Support Raises $20,000 to Lend Wounded Veteran a Helping Hand


By Spc. Matthew Camara, 65th Public Affairs Operations Center, Massachusetts Army National Guard


Staff Sgt. Michael Downing claims he can "jury-rig" - or, modify in his garage - anything in order to make living with his severe disability a bit easier.


Downing lost both his legs to an improvised explosive device in 2008 while serving on his second tour in Afghanistan.


In Downing's garage sits a riding lawnmower with a broom handle attached to the pedal. It's jury-rigged so that Downing can mow his own lawn.  

Photo courtesy of Massachusetts National Guard Public Affairs
SSG Downing Demonstrates Lift System

MIDDLEBORO, Mass. - Staff Sgt. Michel Downing demonstrates the new lift installed in his home to Brigadier General John A. Hammond, Commander, 26th Maneuver Enhanced Brigade and Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa, State Command Sergeant Major of the Massachusetts Army National Guard during a visit to Downing's home. Guard Support, the family, and the Mass. National Guard worked on raising money to purchase and install the lift for Downing.

But there's one thing in Downing's custom-built home that is certainly not jury-rigged - a new lift system provided by Sure Hands Lift and Care Systems, a New York-based company that builds hoists for the wheelchair-bound, allowing them to do things like get in and out of the bathtub by without assistance.


The $20,000 lift helps Downing get around his bathroom and gives him added mobility on the infrequent days his health issues catch up with him.


Although ambulatory and outfitted with prosthetics, Downing sometimes has difficulty getting out of bed if he's sick or if he's simply having a bad day dealing with the lingering pain in his lost limbs. He uses the lift several times a week to get into a hot bath, which his wife described as great therapy.




"Somebody who's taking care of their wounded veteran should not be worried if their husband can get in and out of bed the whole time they're at work," said Downing's wife, Dawnalee Kielty-Downing.


And the Downing family narrowly avoided having to live with that worry.


"He was turned down by the VA and another source of funding," said Guard Support Executive Director Sherry Handel.


Guard Support is a nonprofit that assists Massachusetts National Guard personnel in meeting a variety of needs from medical expenses to funding family readiness groups.


"It was just a paperwork, red-tape mess," Dawnalee said. "I'd be stuck on hold, given the run-around."


The VA turned down the Downings in 2010, citing Michael Downing's mobility with his prosthetics. Since he was mobile, the lift was deemed something the VA would not pay for.


State Command Sgt. Maj. David Costa and Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Joseph C. Carter attempted to help the Downings and approached Tri-Care, who also said there was nothing they could do.


"None of this would have happened if it hadn't been for Sgt. Maj. Costa and General Carter," Dawnalee said.


After being frustrated by Tri-Care and the VA, Guard Support caught wind of the Downing's predicament and decided to raise the $20,000 to install the lift.


"It was pretty quick. It was a small group of donors," Handel said. "A couple of donors were guardsmen and a number of them serve on the (Guard Support) board (of Directors)."


Guard Support started fundraising in December of 2011. The lift was installed in March 2012.


A local, Lakeville-based company did the installation work and did it at a reduced cost. Downing recently hosted Brig. Gen. John Hammond, Costa and other guests at his house to show the lift off.

"It's something that I believe was needed in this house," Dawnalee said.


Handel, who also toured the Downing home, said that more people need to be aware of Guard Support and the services they provide.


"If we weren't told of Staff Sgt. Downing's need, then we wouldn't have been able to do anything," she said. "The more people know about us, the more we can help."

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In This Issue
Infantry Unit Homecomings Sponsored by Guard Support
Wounded Veteran Receives Helping Hand from Guard Support
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