Northwest Military Blogs: McChord Flightline Chatter

July 28, 2016 at 7:09am

McChord airman receives Spirit of Service Award

Jim Broe (left), American Legion representative, and Chief Master Sgt. Tiko Mazid (right), 62nd Airlift Wing command chief, present Tech. Sgt. Danita Welch with the American Legion Spirit of Service Award, July 15. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley

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If you have walked into the McChord Airman's Clinic at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, you may have been greeted by a 62nd Medical Squadron member with a contagious smile and amazing sense of humor. She's professional, charismatic, helpful and as genuine as one can be. Her name is Danita Welch, "like the grape juice," she said.

Welch, who will soon retire from the Air Force after 20-plus years of service, was recognized by the American Legion for her dedication to helping others at the American Legion Service to America Banquet, July 15, in Centralia.

A native of Wisconsin, she enlisted in 1997 and she serves as the Health Services Manager at the McChord Clinic, and she is a single mother.

Welch has two daughters - one biological and one adopted - and the other 50, well, they are her foster kids.

"I'd like to thank Bri and Ash and the other fifty-plus kids that have lived in my home and stolen a piece of my heart and taken it with them when they walked out the door," said Welch. "Not (just) anyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child."

Over the years, Welch has provided a home, love, support, laughter, and hope to children who were taken away from their families for different reasons.

The children's ages ranged anywhere from 11 months to 18 years old, and they stayed with her anywhere from one night to three years.

"Fostering for me personally means a few things; it's a way to uniquely build my family while helping others," said Welch. "It helps me feel as though I am giving back to the many unofficial foster moms that helped navigate me to adulthood. Finally, in my heart of hearts, I am a story teller. Every phone call that asks me for a bed is a connection to someone's story. I want to be a part of that story."

Welch was recognized for her service to others by the American Legion with the Spirit of Service Award.

The American Legion gives the Spirit of Service Awards annually to servicemembers from each branch of service in recognition of their exemplary efforts in volunteering in their local communities.

"First, I'd like to thank the American Legionnaires for giving me this award," said Welch. "This means a lot. I'd like to thank my fellow servicemembers for always making sure my girls always have extra clothes, shoes and gifts during the holidays. The state is fantastic, but there is just never enough, and the need is so great. I'd like to thank my daughter Arianna for sharing her home, her things, her friends and her mom. And I'd like to thank my adopted daughter Naomi for choosing us as her forever-family, because that's like joining the circus."

Col. Leonard Kosinski, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, was the guest speaker at the award ceremony and reiterated the significance of the event.

"When I was asked to speak tonight, I jumped at the opportunity because it's an honor to be here with some of our nation's true servants," said Kosinski. "Most in the room have served in the military and it's humbling to see you carry on a lifetime of service. But I want to thank everyone here for their commitment to serve, even if it is not through military service. I know we have several firefighters, law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians here tonight that proudly serve their local communities with devotion and dedication as well."

A Marine, soldier, Coast Guardsman, seaman and airman were all recognized by the American Legion for their selfless efforts.

"Those recognized here by the American Legion have gone above and beyond their calling for service and have truly devoted themselves to their communities," said Kosinski. "No one asked them or ordered them to do so, they did so out of the kindness of their heart. That is one of the reasons I was so inspired to speak here tonight."

Welch, true to her nature, gave all the kudos to her kids.

"Receiving the spirit of service award to me was a symbol of recognition, not really for me personally, but for my girls, these fantastic kids in foster care," said Welch. "I retire next June, and my fondest hope is that I can inspire other military members to open their hearts and homes to foster care. The need is so great, even within our own military community."

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