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COVID-19 Heroes: Nellis spouses provide support from a distance

Rachael Thomas, collects eggs from her chicken coop to distribute to families in need during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Rachael Thomas, spouse of Maj. Dan Thomas, assigned to the 561st Weapons Squadron, collects eggs from her chicken coop in North Las Vegas, Nevada, April 3, 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachael and other spouses found different ways to aide military families in need such as delivering food and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julian Kemper)

A collection of some of the masks made by Eliana Delgado for use by Airmen and families at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Eliana Delgado, holds a collection of face coverings prior to disseminating them to Airmen and families at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, April 8, 2020. Delgado and her spouse, Senior Airman Josimar Flores, assigned to the 99th Force Support Squadron, worked together to create approximately 140 masks. (Courtesy Photo)

Katlin Pieri, key spouse for the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, heads out to provide support and gather information for spouses.

Katlin Pieri, key spouse for the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, heads out to provide support and gather information for spouses at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, April 3, 2020. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pieri is one of the base's key spouses working to maintain a sense of stability, community and connectedness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Julian Kemper)

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the structure of everyday life, military spouses have gone out of their way to provide stability and normalcy for each other.

While Airmen maintain essential operations, Nellis spouses are sharing resources to maintain a sense of community and support across the base. 

Katlin Pieri, a middle school teacher and mother of four, has been at Nellis for three years.  During this time, she’s gotten involved as a Key Spouse in the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the unit to which her spouse Staff Sgt. Ben Pieri is assigned. The Key Spouse Program is the official Air Force Unit Family Readiness Program, designed to establish a sense of community and family resilience.

“We have been checking in with families, using social media, sharing information about food pick-up locations and disseminating information from our commanders,” said Pieri. “We’re doing what we can to support families from a distance.”

Other spouses are also providing resources for each other from their homes. Rachael Thomas has been collecting eggs from her backyard chicken coop to distribute to military families in need.   

“I’ve been delivering eggs from our chickens to families who either don’t want to go to the store, or simply cannot find them,” said Thomas, whose spouse, Maj. Dan Thomas is assigned to the 561st Weapons Squadron. “So far, we’ve delivered nine dozen eggs.”

Another spouse, Emily Townsend, provides groceries for neighbors who are unable to get their own, or are more susceptible to falling ill.

“We’re sharing what extra items we have, because we’re here to help in a time of need,” said Townsend.

Eliana Delgado has been making and donating cloth masks for those who need them. Her spouse, Senior Airman Josimar Flores, assigned to the 99th Force Support Squadron, has gotten involved as well -- Flores does the measuring and cutting while Delgado does the sewing and assembly.

“People will message me, and I write down names and how many they need,” said Delgado. “So once we’re done for the night, I put them in a bag; my husband puts them in a bin on our front porch, and people come by and pick up the bag with their name.” So far, Delgado and Flores have made over 140 masks, with more being made in the coming days.

Another, less tangible resource being shared amongst spouses is emotional support. With school closures and limited childcare options, the pandemic has introduced a new layer of challenges for parents. Nonetheless, spouses are uplifting and encouraging one another via video conferencing, and exchanging ideas to ease adjustments to the changes COVID-19 has brought to day-to-day life.  

Michelle Gallegos has two young children who have numerous questions about why they can’t do certain things the way they used to do them.  Her spouse is Tech. Sgt. Eric Gallegos, who is assigned to the 99th Force Support Squadron, through which she’s come to know and rely on other spouses to encourage her as she gives her children the answers and support they need.

“It helps that we have spouse friends who have kids,” said Michelle. “They can use the ‘Messenger Kids’ app to talk to each other and have video chats. Trying to help the kids cope with the situation helps us. We’re helping each other be strong for them.”

Though the restrictions and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic facing Airmen and their families continue to change, the spouses are committed to supporting each other however they can.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth installment in a five-part series highlighting Nellis heroes sustaining operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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