By Joe Snell | DFW Newsflash | February 2017
With an F-35 as the backdrop, Lockheed Martin presented the United Way of Tarrant County’s Veterans Fund with a $315,000 donation as part of the Lockheed Martin’s Armed Forces Bowl.
Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Vice President and General Manager, awarded the check and shared his enthusiasm about organizations working together to help veterans.
“Lockheed’s saying is we never forget who we’re working for; that’s really about the veterans, the men and women who use the equipment we produce to help keep us safe around the world,” Babione said. “United Way has a very similar focus, particularly this veteran’s fund.”
The United Way of Tarrant County established a veterans fund in 2013 through a grant from Lockheed Martin and support by additional community members. Lockheed Martin has donated to the fund since its inception. This is the first year the public is able to contribute to the campaign.
TD Smyers, United Way of Tarrant County Executive Vice President, accepted the check.
“The whole point is the community taking care of the community,” Smyers said. “We want people to know about it. We want to take Lockheed’s lead and bring more people on board. They’ve reached out to other companies to encourage them to join in and be a part of this.”
The funds will go toward providing community-based services needed by military members transitioning back into civilian life in Tarrant County, including coaching veterans back into the workplace, providing family counseling, PTS counseling, and treatment for traumatic brain injury.
“We take agencies we work with that have veteran programs specifically,” Smyers said. “It runs the gambit of the needs of not only the veteran, but the veteran’s family, or the veteran’s caregivers.”
Smyers, a 30-year veteran himself, talked about the difficulties many face transitioning back into civilian life.
“Veterans have come from a really austere working environment, sometimes under fire and under combat conditions,” Smyers said. “They’re returning to a much more peaceful existence.
“We’ve actually hired a military services rep who’s available to them. They call 211 and ask for the military rep. It’s [the military rep’s] role to help them navigate the waters and find exactly what they need.”
The event took place on Wednesday, Dec. 21 at Fort Worth’s General Worth Square as a crowd of visitors, including a number of veterans and Lockheed employees, waited in line to take their photos inside the plane’s cockpit.
Jeff Bailey, a firefighter who does training with the aircraft, was happy to finally show his daughters what he has been working on.
“My family gets to finally see what we make out of Lockheed and what I help protect,” Bailey said. “They’re finally getting to understand more why I’m gone 24 hours at a time.”
During the check celebration, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price thanked both United Way and Lockheed Martin for their contributions to the community.
“Currently, we have 10,000 plus employees at Lockheed Martin helping deliver the best product to our men and women who serve and keep us free,” Price said. “When you hear those planes overhead, they’re coming from Lockheed Martin. It’s the sound of freedom, is what we like to say in Fort Worth.”