The AOG Service Spotlight highlights members of the Air Force Academy family (grads, cadets, family and friends of the Academy) every month who perform outstanding service that makes positive and meaningful impacts in their respective communities and beyond. Let these inspiring stories foster a spirit of service within the Air Force Academy family and inspire further commitment to a lifetime of service.
Grads Answering the COVID-19 Call
Instead of putting the spotlight on one individual this month, we want to highlight the many members of the USAFA family who are stepping up during these uncertain times. Here are just some of their stories. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have other examples that should be shared with the USAFA community.
Sal Speziale '78
ABC News recently featured a restaurant that found a new calling after taking a financial hit by the pandemic. Sal Speziale '78, the owner of Ciao Osteria, and his team have been delivering free food to doctors, nurses and other first responders on the front lines.
They have raised more than $140,000 and have served over 7,000 meals so far. Totals grow with each delivery every day. Academy classmates recently contributed $78 each to the cause.
Along with the free food, the Air Force veteran and former airline pilot delivers the message of persistence and hope. Sal lives by the words in a poem he was given when he nearly left his prep school: “Stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit; It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.”
A. J. Parmet '72
The AOG started the year with a Service Before Self Challenge. Nobody logged more volunteer minutes for that in March than A.J. Parmet '72, who donated his minutes to Squadron 9.
He came out of retirement and worked two weeks of consecutive 12-hour days volunteering as a medical officer for those in quarantine and isolation from two cruise ships.
Mark Beres '91
Flying Leap Vineyards was founded in 2010 by three best friends: Mark Beres '91, Marc Moeller '91 and Tom Kitchens '90, who met at the Academy.
These grape farmers in Arizona turn their harvests into still wines and spirits. They have a robust distillation capacity, including a powerful continuous column used to distill grapes into vodka. That continuous column still is also useful for producing neutral grape spirits — pure, 95% ABV spirits from grapes that are perfect for making high quality, all-natural hand sanitizer.
Flying Leap teamed up with a local skin care company to produce hand santizer during this time of need from their alcohols. They recently posted about a 55-gallon barrel of their liquor that was to be denatured then blended into a potent hand sanitizer destined for St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
In the past 3 weeks, they distilled enough neutral grape spirit for hand sanitizer to make 3,370 bottles of vodka. Their alcohol is sanitizing hands across the United States — protecting the health of not only local customers in Tucson, but also hospital and clinic workers across Arizona, local and regional first responders, sheriff's departments, area nursing home staffs, postal workers and grocery store workers across Arizona.
Braeden Holcombe '24
It's not just grads, the whole USAFA family is getting involved! Class of 2024 incoming appointee Braeden Holcombe is making masks at home as he waits for Inprocessing.
Braeden wanted to find where he could serve and make a difference in his community during these times. For him, that was making medical masks with his mom (who is the owner of “Cuz You Said Sew”). His whole life he'd watched her sew & create things for others, so once it was his time to pick it up it felt natural. Prior to the statewide “stay at home” order, as a team he and his mom sewed 70 masks within a few hours to supply a hospital in Parker, Colorado. Today, they are continuing those initiatives, creating custom masks for family members locally and abroad. They are also making masks for individuals from coast to coast who they have never met. Being able to do this for others allows Braeden to see that "the service I can provide is bigger than the challenges I face."