The History of MAW* (2007-2012)* Military Appreciation Warriors

by Millie Woods

Having become friends with the Vice Commander of the 49th Fighter Wing at Holloman AFB, Colonel Michael McGee, during the 2007 Christmas Electric Light Parade in Ruidoso, NM, and hearing that plane flying overhead in mid January, I emailed Col. McGee and asked “Michael, how will I know when to go out and wave if you are not going to honk your horn or waggle a wing?” His reply was “Millie, I can do better than that; I can do a rollover over your house.

Neighbors and friends in my church wanting to know when this would happen made me realize that such a feat was far too precious not to be shared with all.

Hence, the founding of Military Appreciation Warriors, a non-profit organization that gives honor and tribute to active duty troops and provides a place for military bases to showcase their equipment and the men and women who use that equipment in the defense of this great Nation.

MAW 2008 and MAW 2009 were sponsored by the United States Air Force , Lead Support bein Holloman Air Force Base and supported by all five military branches. MAW 2010 and MAW 2011 were sponsored by the United States Army, Fort Bliss as Lead Support and supported by all five branches. The United States Coast Guard sent a young coastguardsman from Rockland, Maine to represent that Branch in the presentation of the POW MIA Table.

Every MAW’s annual event ended with an awards banquet that honored POWs, wounded warriors, the oldest troop in attendance and recognized the winners of that year’s theme writing contest, teaching students the need for patriotism and respect for the American military uniform and the American flag.

Every awards banquet also included a POW MIA Table presentation that, without exception, brought tears to most in attendance. The finale of every MAW awards banquet was band’s rendition of Lee Greenwood’s Stand Up America, which put every one on his feet. After every MAW event, the troops retired to their complimentary lodging quarters.

The MAW mission statement and primary goal is to give honor and tribute to active duty troops, to give the hospitality of complimentary lodging, dining, golfing, horseback riding, skiing, etc. as Ruidoso and Greater Lincoln County’s way of expressing gratitude for the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform who, at one time, signed a blank check good for an amount up to and including their limbs and their very life.

What MAW accomplished in those five years was nothing more than what every American should be willing to do for those who assure our freedom.

MAW’s five years of military hospitality got the attention of the Department of Defense and earned Ruidoso and Lincoln County the coveted honor of a Covenant Signing between the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and the Village of Ruidoso and communities of Lincoln County. The Covenant acknowledged that Ruidoso Greater Lincoln County had exhibited a respect and appreciation of and for the U.S Armed Forces that is worthy of recognition as a favored military R&R community.

Those five years saw long convoys of enormous pieces of equipment coming in from El Paso, Las Cruces, Albuquerque, Roswell, and Clovis. We saw Sappers from White Sands Missile Range, who had just returned from Afghanistan, setting up a war zone with concertina wire, using baby powder for added smoke from their monster weapons. Our kids were allowed to ride in their vehicles. We saw rappelling, rock climbing, the training of military dogs. We sat in aircraft simulators in awe of the console. We heard F-22 Raptor pilots explain that aircraft to school students and allow them to hold the foot long bullets that fired at several thousand per second.

We watched jumpers jump from a plane and hastily get out of their harnesses while another jumper jumped holding a 40 foot American flag that unfurled as the 44th Army Band played the National Anthem. The jumpers grabbed the flag to keep it from touching the ground. One bent over, helping the last jumper to hisfeet. He unzipped his flight suit and stepped out on two titanium legs. Dana Bowman was a Golden Knight whose legs were sheared off by his partner’s arm.

But of all of the magnificent military things we saw and experienced, the last public flight of the Queen of the Airways, Lockheed’s F-117 Nighthawk, a stealth fighter that was dubbed the Cockroach because for eight years she flew nights only, unseen by the public, was the most memorable. This was her last ever pubic flight after thirty-four years of devoted service. That day the emcee said “Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your attention to the south”, and we all watched the two tiny spots materialize into two beautiful F-117s, one bearing the American flag on the underbelly, come roaring low over the event field – that was the most magnificent of all. That day, I very nearly went to my knees so emotional was the experience. Spectators were shouting, “Come back, come back”. Many were weeping out of pride, American patriotism, and the awesomeness of that experience.

I never got the roll-over over my house, but the Monday after that Saturday MAW event, the same two planes flew over my house, tipped their wings in tribute (something I will forever hold dear) and turned northwest, headed for Tonopah, Nevada where the wings were removed and the planes were stored underground.

GOD Bless our Troops, GOD Bless our Vets, and GOD Bless America.

IMG_0402

Millie Woods, Founder/President, Military Appreciation Warriors 2007-2012 (red shirt) in the Corrales Veteran’s Day Parade 2013

Here’s an article explaining some of the events Millie created during her tenure as MAW Founder

Appreciating the military

Mike Curran mcurran@ruidosonews.com

POSTED:   05/04/2010

MAW observes its third annual event beginning Thursday

Be on high alert. A large combat force is headed this way replete with weapons, armored vehicles, technology and an airborne assault helicopter.

Be not afraid, the contingent of service personnel who arrive in Ruidoso Friday at noon are reportedly ours – all members of the U.S. Armed Forces – and they will be on hand to help celebrate Ruidoso’s annual Military Appreciation Weekend (MAW). MAW is the only military appreciation organization in the state of New Mexico and the 2010 Ruidoso MAW event will be highlighted nationally.

Troop elements, along with necessary mechanized support and materiel will roll out of Fort Bliss at 6 a.m., Friday, while units of the New Mexico National Guard will egress Albuquerque and Las Cruces. All will simultaneously rendezvous at Ruidoso Downs Race Track at the appointed time and the weekend’s revelry will commence.

“This will be our third year celebrating our armed forces in Ruidoso,” President and founder of MAW Millie Woods said. “In 2008 and ’09 Holloman Air Force Base was the lead support and this year it will be Fort Bliss. We hope all patriotic spirited citizens in Lincoln County will be on hand to show these fine soldiers how much we care about them and to thank them for what they do for us. It will be three days of thanksgiving and entertainment.”

The 2008 MAW event was honored to hold the last public flight of the F-117 Nighthawk stealth ground attack aircraft. Shortly after, on April 22, the planes were retired to Tonopah, Nev.

At the 2009 MAW occurrence, the F-22 Raptor was introduced to Ruidoso.

Among commissioned rank and non-commissioned officers coming with their 300 troops will be the Fort Bliss Base Commander, Maj. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg (who has 21,000 troops under his command) and his subordinates, the 3rd Brigade combat team headed by Col. Christopher Covoli (who has 4,000 troops under his command), Lt. Col. Elmer Speights (who will be bivouacked in an RV at the Mountain View Christian Camp with 130 of his soldiers), Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Reimers with the 2nd Brigade combat group, Director Scott Marquardt; Deputy Director Jimmy Edinger and Sgt. Maj. Kevin Gerken of Mission Support; Command Sgt. Maj. David Davenport and representing the German Air Force at Fort Bliss will be Col. Michael Goldstein.

Among the New Mexico National Guard commissioned and non-commissioned officers will be Maj. Gen. George Montoya and Brig. Gen. Jack R. Fox (both of whom greatly assisted, along with their troops, in the 2008 Ruidoso flood), Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Doug Piltz, Brigade Commander Col. Joseph DeAtona (who has 5,000 troops under his command) of the 11th Air Defense Artillery, Lt. Col. Gregory Brady of the 52nd Air Defense Artillery of the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and the Mobilization and Deployment Brigade Commander Col. James Green and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Considine.

Brig. Gen. Douglas Murray, Academic Dean of NMMI will also be in attendance as well as a contingent of troops from Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

When the troops and their equipment arrive they will converge at Ruidoso Downs Race Track to set up operations on the infield of the track. As they come through the horsemen’s tunnel from the backside there will be a welcome sight in store for all – selected third- and fourth-grade Ruidoso students (supervised by Dana Lenzo and volunteers) will have already assembled at the chosen track site, lined up, 6 feet apart, to form a welcoming committee for the incoming troopers (everyone connected with the MAW event at the track should be on the infield by 11 a.m.).

Afterwards, the school children, along with their sack lunches will accompany the soldiers to the nearby “Feed the Troops” shelter where 100 tables will await the group. When lunch has concluded the troopers and the school children will engage in ball games and Frisbee tosses for about 30 minutes. Lenzo and the chaperones will then escort the students from the area and the soldiers will then set up “Military City” on the infield.

All military personnel will break at 5 p.m. and meet at the Mountain View Christian Camp where they will board buses and be shuttled to the Flying J Ranch for a gunfight and dinner show.

The troops can relax for the night and not worry about their equipment back at the track and parking lots – some of Lincoln County’s finest will have that responsibility well in hand. Ruidoso Downs and Ruidoso police departments, as well as the Lincoln County Sheriff’s department will be at all sites, in three-hour shifts, to protect U.S. assets all night. Off-duty and retired police will also be included.

Saturday morning, the soldiers will be back on station on the demonstration field (track infield) at 8 a.m. and ready to attend to the public-at-large. Between 8 and 9 a.m., attendees may practice their shooting skills, inside darkened surroundings, with lasers.

At 9 a.m., the official ceremony begins when an airplane will fly over and two skydivers will jump and land in the center of the infield. When they have made it to the ground former Golden Knight parachutist Dana Bowman will emerge from the plane, deploy his chute and unfurl the American flag as he descends. At this point, the 44th Army Band (who has played for three sitting presidents) will strike up the National Anthem. As Bowman touches Earth his two grounded mates will grasp the flag before it hits the landscape.

Bowman will then unzip his flight suit and step out on his two titanium legs. The former Golden Knight lost both of his legs in a 1985 mid-air collision with another parachutist who was killed. Bowman will then deliver his “It’s Ability and Not Disability” speech.

Also at the 9 a.m. ceremonies, Brig. Gen. Murray will present awards to the winners of the essay contest, “How Can I STAND UP For America.” The first place recipient will receive a $100 Treasury bond, a $50 bond will be given for second place and a $25 bond will be awarded for third. There will be a drawing for students, kindergarten through second-grade. The winner receive s a pizza party at Pizza Hut.

The Sierra Blanca Steppers dance troop will perform at 10:30 a.m. and again at 1:30 p.m.

The 2 p.m. reception in the Turf Club has to be one of the more solemn, touching moments of the day. Former Marine Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke will be honored. In 2003 this Marine lost an eye, a leg and two fingers from each of his hands while defusing a bomb. An oil portrait of the wounded warrior (see Friday’s Ruidoso News) will be presented to Graunke at the reception.

Maj. Gen. Montoya will be the keynote speaker at the reception and will honor Graunke, as well as POW Maggie Trujillo, who spent 37 months in a Korean prison camp and the oldest veteran who is reportedly 91 years old. The veterans name will be revealed at the reception.

During this gathering the “Youngest Military Service Personnel” will also be feted. A lone, unoccupied POW/MIA table will be set up and five airmen will carry the five caps, representing all five branches of the U.S. Military, and place them on an equal number of plates on the table. The accompanying water glasses will be turned upside down and each chair will be tipped forward against the table.

The Ruidoso High School advanced choir will sing the National Anthem at the reception. Tickets are $10 and there are only 50 available. Call MAW President Millie Woods at 336-2828 for tickets.

The 44th Army Band will be in concert on the infield from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

During the day, visitors will be encouraged to don the equipment soldiers are required to wear, crawl on an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle and view the UH-58 Blackhawk helicopter.

Sunday morning, soldiers will break camp between 10:30 a.m. to noon. Some will head toward Roswell and Artesia on Highway 70 while others will split off at the “Y” for either Las Cruces or Albuquerque.

“It would be wonderful if as many citizens from Lincoln County as possible could bid farewell to our soldiers as they leave Ruidoso,” Woods said. “It would be even better if our residents could wave flags, show signs and express the gratitude these fine troopers deserve.”

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