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VA, Air National Guard welcome family members on base

A guest enjoys a romp down an inflatable slide at the Kentucky Air National Guard's Family Day,  held July 17, 2010 in Louisville, Ky.  Some 1,600 Airmen and family were treated to barbecue, games, entertainment, rides and opportunities to learn about services available to members of the military community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

A guest enjoys a romp down an inflatable slide at the Kentucky Air National Guard's Family Day, held July 17, 2010 in Louisville, Ky. Some 1,600 Airmen and family were treated to barbecue, games, entertainment, rides and opportunities to learn about services available to members of the military community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Members of the University of Louisville Marching Band perform for military families and friends at the Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing “Family Day” event July 17, 2010. Guests were treated to barbecue, games, entertainment, rides and opportunities to learn about services available to members of the military community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Members of the University of Louisville Marching Band perform for military families and friends at the Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing “Family Day” event July 17, 2010. Guests were treated to barbecue, games, entertainment, rides and opportunities to learn about services available to members of the military community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Members of the Kentucky Air National Guard and their families gathered to celebrate "Family Day" at the 123d Airlift Wing headquarters and air base July 17.

The event was a coordinated effort between the 123d Family Readiness Office and the Louisville Department of Veteran's Affairs.

Mr. Dave Rooney, Airman and Family Readiness Program manager for the Wing, led the coordination of base involvement which beginning back in January.

"The VA contacted me and wanted to reach out to the members of the Air National Guard," Mister Rooney said. "Family Day is an annual event here, and provided the perfect opportunity for the VA to 'welcome home' everyone from the Air Guard who has deployed since 9-11."

The day was filled with events and activities. For the adults, there was a corn-hole game tournament and classic rock music by the local Louisville band, "Cadillac Shack." Kids were treated to several games including a "pugel stick" pit, a football toss challenge and rides around the parking lot on a mini C-130 cargo transport plane replicating the aircraft flown by the Wing.

There was also a martial arts demonstration provided by St. Matthews Martial Arts. The Army National Guard was a hit with their obstacle course and rock-climbing wall. An estimated 1,600 people were in attendance for the celebration.

The festivities were more than just a "thank-you" for the troops, explained Mr. Rooney. The underlying motive was to educate everyone about the various programs and benefits that the VA offers to take care of veterans and their families post-deployment.

"The VA's main focus was to educate and register as many troops as possible for VA benefits, to include employment assistance and referral program as well as family advocacy and medical issues" Rooney said. "Registry into the system allows them to utilize all the resources available."

Representatives from 22 service providers around the community that assist veterans regarding various issues also were present.

"The VA connects with service providers through the state and nation to get veterans the help they need for whatever reason," Rooney said. "Employer Support of Guard and Reserve is a major resource to help troops and employers with various issues that may arise after returning from a war zone. We want people to know their options."

Among those lending support were several University of Kentucky football players who volunteered their time to ensure the day was a success.

"We appreciate what our (troops) are doing for us," said Luke Mc Dermott, defensive tackle for the team. "We just wanted to give something back."