MV-22B Osprey: By the Numbers

An MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166) and 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in the San Diego area, is on the ground at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in Oceanside before flying personnel to remote training ranges at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center on Thursday, January 31, 2013. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

In today’s edition of The Desert Sun, we explored the Marine Corps’ MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor. Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the Transformers-esque aircraft that makes vertical take-offs like a helicopter and shits its proprotors downward for longer range faster flight capabilities more akin to a C-130.

  • Quantity: 360 MV-22s. 50 more are designated as CV-22 for use by U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and another 48 are designated HV-22 for use by the Navy. “M” denotes the Marine Corps variant.
  • Predecessor: The Osprey is replacing the Marine Corps’ CH-46E helicopter. Squadrons, including Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 166 (VMM-166) are redesignated from HMM to VMM as the transition takes place and CH-46 pilots are being retrained for the tiltrotor.
  • Transition time: 18 months between when an HMM stand-down to VMM pre-deployment training
  • Crew: 4 – Pilot, Co-Pilot, 2 enlisted crew chiefs
  • Passengers: 24 troop seats
  • Engines: 2 Rolls-Royce Liberty AE1107C
  • Speed: 280 knots
  • Altitude ceiling: 24,700 feet
  • Fuel Capacity: 1,721 gallons
  • Length: 57 feet 4 inches, nose-to-tail
  • Proprotor rotation diameter: 38 feet 1 inch
  • Wingspan/rotation width: About 46 feet wingtip-to-wingtip; 84 feet 7 inches clearance with proprotor rotation
  • Body width: 15 feet
  • Height: 22 feet 1 inch wheels-to-rotor
  • Size when stowed for shipboard compatibility: 18 feet 11 inches width, 63 feet length, 18 feet 3 inches height
  • Flight radius: With 24 passengers, the Osprey reaches 325nm unrefueled; 600nm with 1 refueling. The CH-46E radius in 75nm.
  • Lift capability: 20,000 lbs
  • Cargo hooks: 2 external cargo hooks
  • June 2007: the MV-22B reached initial operational capability
  • 100,000: V-22 program flight hours exceeded in Feb. 2011

Sources: V-22 Osprey Guidebook 2011/2012 (NAVAIR PMA-275, Control Number 11-607), III MEF MV-22 Osprey Factsheet 120926

For more on the MV-22B Osprey, check out our online components:

Second star for former Twentynine Palms commanding general

Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy III speaks to media on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 after a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new Combined Arms Military Operations in Urban Terrain (CAMOUT) facility at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. Clardy has been nominated for promotion to Maj. Gen., the Department of Defense announced Thursday. Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

A second star will soon be on the collar of Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy III, the Department of Defense announced Thursday.

Clardy, who served as Commanding General of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command in Twentynine Palms from Sept. 24, 2009 – July 6, 2011, is one of seven Marine Corps Brigadier Generals nominated for promotion to Major General (O-8).

Clardy received his first star in September 2009 shortly before taking the local command job and now has over three years time-in-grade. He was the 39th commander of the base in Twentynine Palms.

According to the Marine Corps Promotion Manual, Volume 1, Officer Promotions, to be promoted to the rank of Maj. Gen., Clardy must first be nominated by the Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of Defense, and the President. His presidential nomination is what triggered yesterday’s announcement. At this point, his nomination moves to the Senate, which has final promotion approval authority for General Officers.

Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center commanding general Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy III addresses the audience during a joint birthday celebration, rededication of colors, and Silver Star ceremony on base Friday morning, August 20, 2010. Clardy currently works at Headquarters Marine Corps in Virginia and will soon be promoted to Maj. Gen. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

Since turning over command of the base and MAGTF training command to Brig. Gen. George W. Smith two years ago, Clardy has served as Director, Operations Division, Plans, Policies, and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Virginia. Smith is now headed to Afghanistan to serve as Deputy Commander, II Marine Expeditionary Force [Forward] for Security Force Assistance after the most recent Change of Command ceremony was held at Twentynine Palms on January 11.

Clardy earned his commission in 1983. As an infantry officer, his command experience grew from heavy machinegun, rifle, and weapons platoons of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines to serving as company commander for 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance (LAR) Battalion. He commanded 3rd LAR in combat during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He promoted to Colonel and commanded 2nd Marine Regiment and Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT2) also during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to his official Marine Corps biography, he has also held a variety of staff positions during his career.

Clardy is a recipient of the Legion of Merit with two gold stars and combat distinguishing device, Bronze Star with combat distinguishing device, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Combat Action Ribbon, and Presidential Unit Citation.

Saturday is ‘Military Appreciation Day’ at Humana Challenge

A special tented area just for service members, called the Military Outpost, sits along the 1st teebox of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West during the PGA Tour's Humana Challenge event. On Saturday, the tournament is hosting a military appreciation day and service members can attend the tournament for free. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

Saturday’s inaugural Humana Military Appreciation Day will feature a ceremony to honor members of the armed forces and their families. It will include presentations by military leaders, a color guard and a flyover of two Navy F-5s from the Naval west coast aggressor squadron VFC-13 from Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada.

All active duty military, reserve, veterans and military retirees, along with their dependents, will receive free admission to the Humana Challenge on Saturday.

Gen. Wesley Clark, U.S. Army (Ret), Linda Hope, daughter of comedian Bob Hope, 13-time PGA Tour winner David Toms and Humana President of Government Business Tim McClain will all speak during the event.

From 1997-2000, Clark served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe. He briefly ran for President ahead of the 2004 election.

“The Humana Challenge, formerly the Bob Hope Classic, has a long history of celebrating our nation’s servicemen and women who give so much every day,” said Tim McClain, President of Humana Government Business. “Given Bob Hope’s legacy and devotion to entertaining military troops, it is fitting to dedicate a day to honoring military personnel and their families. In the end, we hope the Military Appreciation Day will have a lasting impact on all participants and continue to honor our troops.”

“Additionally, during the Humana Challenge event, the Military Warriors Support Foundation will donate a 100 percent mortgage-free home to a local veteran injured during combat. Humana-sponsored PGA TOUR golfer David Toms will be on hand to award the home, which signifies Humana’s continued commitment to the military community.”

“We at Humana are proud to honor our military personnel during an event like the Humana Challenge, which is steeped in tradition,” said Bruce Broussard, President and CEO of Humana. “We also know that our dedication to the military does not end at the Humana Challenge. In fact, our company has a long history of supporting the armed forces and their families.”

PGA TOUR events – similar to the Humana Challenge – have served as past venues for the donation of homes to Wounded Warriors. The cost of the home is funded solely through the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Chase Bank. There is no cost to the Humana Challenge or to Humana.

The Humana Challenge Military Outpost features free refreshments and climate-controlled indoor seating along the 1st hole of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

In addition to Saturday’s day to honor those who served, the tournament’s Military Outpost also returned this year. Active duty, reserve, and military retirees can access a special military-only tent and patio near the 1st tee of the Palmer Private Course at PGA West.

We are proud to host members of our country’s military at the Humana Military Outpost as our guests; they deserve the opportunity to have a fun and relaxing time with us while watching many of the world’s best golfers up close,” Humana Challenge Executive Director and CEO Bob Marra said.

The outpost is a private hospitality pavilion offering climate-controlled indoor seating, outdoor patio seating and complimentary refreshments.

Humana administers health coverage for approximately 3 million active duty and retired military through the TRICARE program, according to Mike McCallister, Humana’s Chairman and CEO.

A look at Twentynine Palms’ lineage of command

Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, Jr. (right) relinquishes command and hands the installation colors to Maj. Gen. David H. Berger (left) during a change of command ceremony held Friday, January 11, 2013 at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. Smith has been in command since July 2011. Berger previously served as commanding general of the 1st Marine Division (forward) at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. His new responsibilities include a dual-role of command in which he oversees the installation and also the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command. Passing of a unit's flag from one commander to the next is a military tradition during a change of command. Crystal Chatham, The Desert Sun

On Friday afternoon, Maj. Gen. David H. Berger assumed command of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command in Twentynine Palms. As he accepted the Combat Center colors from outgoing commander, Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, Jr., he added the latest stars to the installation’s command lineage.

Looking back at the long line, at least 36 generals have handed down the installation colors at least 36 times. Maj. Gen. J. I. Hopkins is the only member of that elite club to accept command of the base twice. He first served as commanding general from July 19, 1989 to August 14, 1990. After deployment to Saudi Arabia with the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and a merge with I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) for the duration of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Hopkins returned to Twentynine Palms to serve in the base’s top slot again March 24, 1991 to May 31, 1992.

Twentynine Palms’ first commander was not a general. Higher grade commanders were put in place as the installation grew over five years and turned into what would become the Combat Center.

Commanders and Commanding Generals of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (first to most recent):

  • [Lt. Col. Frederick H. Scantling: Dec. 15, 1952 - July 1953]
  • [Col. Francis R. Brink: July 1953 - Dec. 29, 1954]
  • [Col. John S. Oldfield: Dec. 29, 1954 - Jan. 30, 1957]
  • Brig. Gen. Thomas G. McFarland: Feb. 1, 1957 – June 27, 1957
  • Brig. Gen. Randall M. Victory: June 28, 1957 – Dec. 30, 1958
  • Maj. Gen. Alpha L. Bowser: Dec. 31, 1958 – Sept. 29, 1960
  • Brig. Gen. Lewis J. Fields: Sept. 30, 1960 – Aug. 30, 1962
  • Brig. Gen. Joseph L. Stewart: Aug. 31, 1962 – March 17, 1964
  • Brig. Gen. William K. Jones: March 18, 1964 – Dec. 27, 1965
  • Brig. Gen. Virgil W. Banning: Dec. 28, 1965 – July 28, 1966
  • [Col. Henry M. Wellman, Jr: July 29, 1966 - October 30, 1966]
  • Brig. Gen. Regan Fuller: Oct. 31, 1966 – March 25, 1969
  • Brig. Gen. Carl W. Hoffman: March 26, 1969 – April 23, 1971
  • Brig. Gen. Paul G. Graham: April 24, 1971 – Oct. 16, 1972
  • Maj. Gen. Kenneth J. Houghton: Oct. 17, 1972 – April 30, 1973
  • Brig. Gen. William G. Joslyn: May 1, 1973 – May 1, 1974
  • Maj. Gen. Clarence H. Schmid: May 10, 1974 – July 17, 1975
  • Brig. Gen. Ernest R. Reid, Jr.: July 18, 1975 – June 29, 1976
  • Maj. Gen. Edward J. Megarr: June 30, 1976 – March 18, 1978
  • Brig. Gen. Harold G. Glasgow: March 20, 1978 – April 10, 1981
  • Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Knotts: April 11, 1981 – July 14, 1983
  • Brig. Gen. William R. Etnyre: July 15, 1983 – June 14, 1985
  • Maj. Gen. John P. Monahan: June 15, 1985 – May 12, 1986
  • Maj. Gen. Ernest T. Cook, Jr.: May 13, 1986 – Aug. 27, 1987
  • Maj. Gen. Gene A. Deegan: Aug. 28, 1987 – July 18, 1989
  • Maj. Gen. John I. Hopkins: July 19, 1989 – Aug. 14, 1990
  • Brig. Gen. J.E. Livingston: Aug. 15, 1990 – March 23, 1991
  • Maj. Gen. John I. Hopkins: March 24, 1991 – May 31, 1992
  • Brig. Gen. Russell H. Sutton: June 1, 1992 – Aug. 15, 1994
  • Maj. Gen. Leslie M. Palm: Aug. 16, 1994 – June 18, 1996
  • Maj. Gen. Ronald G. Richard: June 18, 1996 – June 10, 1998
  • Maj. Gen. Clifford L. Stanley: June 10, 1998 – Aug. 4, 2000
  • Brig. Gen. Joseph F. Weber: Aug. 4, 2000 – May 21, 2002
  • Brig. Gen. Christian B. Cowdrey: May 22, 2002 – June 21, 2004
  • Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer: June 22, 2004 – Nov. 9, 2005
  • Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone: Nov. 10, 2005 – April 5, 2007
  • Brig. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese: April 5, 2007 – May 22, 2008 (currently serves as Deputy Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force)
  • Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus: May 22, 2008 – Sept. 24, 2009 (currently serves as Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force [Forward])
  • Brig. Gen. H. Stacy Clardy, III: Sept. 24, 2009 – July 6, 2011 (currently serves as Director of Operations, Plans, Policies and Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps)
  • Brig. Gen. George W. Smith, Jr.: July 7, 2011 – Jan. 11, 2013 (slated to begin serving as Deputy Commander, II Marine Expeditionary Force [Forward] for Security Force Assistance in late January)
  • Maj. Gen. David H. Berger: Jan. 11, 2013 – present

Welcome back, pilots

Working across the street from the Palm Springs International Airport, getting a glimpse of airplanes coming and going is a perk – especially the Navy’s F-18s screaming past.
In 2011, when Rep. Mary Bono Mack brokered a deal with the Department of Defense to take the training elsewhere, I was a little disappointed. But I also understood the concerns of those who lived under the flight path. The jets did interrupt editorial board meetings on occasion, but nobody here complained.
I moderated one of our online debates on the issue, and it was a persistent source of letters to the editor.
In fact, the issue surfaced in a letter to the editor, when a tourist wrote that she was interrupted while trying to relax by her hotel pool. This brought a flood of outraged responses from patriots who described the jets as “the sound of freedom.”
On Friday, when news broke that training would resume, it was like flipping a switch for letter writers who miss the jets. You can read some of those on Tuesday’s Opinion page. One even uses that lovely cliché.
You can also read a Valley Voice column by Bill Borden, an occasional contributor from Rancho Mirage, who says the jets expected to arrive here son, T-45 Goshawk (photo), aren’t nearly as loud as the F-18s, “a supersonic, 1,305-mph, carrier capable, attack fighter/bomber with a maximum takeoff weight of 56,000 pounds, two GE engines with a range of 2,000 miles.”
He calls the T-45 the F-18’s baby brother. It is a trainer that flies at 645 mph, weighs a mere 13,000 pounds, and has a range of only 805 miles.
Maybe it’s the best of both worlds – not so loud that it will chase your poodle under the bed, but useful tools to keep our pilots sharp. It’s good news for Atlantic Aviation where they can refuel. Bringing back pilots to our cozy desert is great news. I hope to see them on Palm Canyon Drive at get a chance to thank them for their service.

See the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument on Tues-Weds in Pasadena

This undated publicity photo provided by John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc., shows the frontal view of the U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument. It is the first national monument ever to pay tribute to dogs and honors every dog who has served in combat since World War II. (AP Photo/John Burnam Monument Foundation, Inc.)

Today and tomorrow, the public can get a first glimpse at the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument in Pasadena before it starts a cross-country road trip to Texas for permanent installation later this year.

The bronze sculptures of a military dog handler and four working dogs — each canine standing about 5′ tall — are scheduled to be displayed on a vehicle parked next to the Natural Balance Pet Foods “Canines with Courage” float following the 124th Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena. Each was created by sculptor Paula Slater.

In this undated publicity photo provided by Natural Balance, a rendering of a float called "Canines with Courage," the Natural Balance entry for the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena on Jan. 1, 2013 is shown. War handler veteran, John Burnam, and dogs and handlers from every branch of the service will ride the float. (AP Photo/Natural Balance)

The float features a floral replica of the bronze monument and including working dog teams walking along side. Also riding on the float was Lucca, a working dog with three combat deployments, who lost her front left leg during a roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan last March. Natural Balance’s Rose Parade annual canine star, Tillman, was also on the float. This year, the skateboarding and surfing bulldog traded in his sports equipment for Marine Corps dress blues. Tillman was made an honorary Marine Corps Private First Class during an October ceremony in Dallas.

The post-parade Showcase of Floats is open to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 from 1-5 p.m. and Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The showcase offers a chance to see the floats up-close and often speak with volunteers or staff who worked on them. Tickets for the float viewing are $10. Click here for more information, directions, and tips for the post-parade event.

The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument will be permanently installed and dedicated in late summer at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, where military working dogs are trained.

In this Aug. 2, 2012 publicity photo provided by Natural Balance, war handler veteran, author and designer, John Burnam, left, and veteran portrait sculptor, Paula Slater, stand with the silicon bronze 9.5-feet tall military dog handler that is part of the U.S. Working Dogs Teams National Monument shown in the Sculptor's Studio in Hidden Valley Lake, in Calif. (AP Photo/Natural Balance)

Overseas troops send holiday greetings home

Troops with ties to the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas sent recorded holiday greetings home this season while they serve on deployment or stationed at bases overseas. A video reel of their messages is below.

Those shown below are part of a total 5,965 holiday greetings recorded this fall by Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines.

Featured holiday greetings are from -

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Kevin Priest
Location: Southwest Asia
Hometown: Cathedral City

Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexis Gonzales
Location: Bagram Air Field
Hometown: Beaumont

Air Force Technical Sgt. Maurice Carbajal
Location: Aviano Air Base, Italy
Hometown: Yucca Valley

Army Maj. David Bourne
Location: Qatar
Hometown: Palm Springs

Army Specialist Theresa Baldwin
Location: Forward Operating Base Joyce
Hometown: Twentynine Palms

Army Staff Sgt. David Jimenez
Location: Bagram Air Field
Hometown: El Centro

Army Sgt. 1st Class Tamara Bogan
Location: Bagram Air Field
Hometown: Twentynine Palms

Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Hunt
Location: Kabul
Hometown: El Centro

Army Private First Class Hollie Stutes
Location: Camp Leatherneck
Hometown: El Centro

Local troops in The Tonight Show’s all-military audience

Tonight's episode of The Tonight Show features an all-military audience. (Photo by The Tonight Show via Facebook)

Tonight’s Thanksgiving episode of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno features an all-military audience, including local troops.

Two buses of Marines and Sailors from the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms loaded up and headed to Burbank for the show’s taping Wednesday. 86 local service members were in the Leno audience. The show’s guests included Bradley Cooper, Natasha Leggero, and musical act Psy who performed “Gagnam Style.”

The Tonight Show airs at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.

Jay Leno with Thanksgiving show guests Psy, Natasha Leggero, and Bradley Cooper. (Photo by The Tonight Show via Facebook)

Indian Wells couple’s vision, leadership sparks outpouring of support for American Friends of Our Armed Forces

Walt and Judy Van Benthuysen

This story appears in the December 2012 edition of Desert Magazine

Marching Orders

By Denise Goolsby

Photos Crystal Chatham

Walt and Judy Van Benthuysen sit on a patio overlooking the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course at Toscana Country Club in Indian Wells. Two weeks earlier a major fundraiser was held there for American Friends of Our Armed Forces, a charitable organization the couple founded in 2005.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity for this dedicated duo, whose passion for helping military families has sparked a similar enthusiasm―expressed by a generous outpouring of time and money―from the community.

Since its inception seven years ago, AFAF has provided more than $1.2 million in support of America’s troops and their families. The money, distributed through grants, goes to support programs designed to help meet the financial, social and emotional needs of the country’s military. Key support goes to programs at two of the valley’s closest military bases: Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego.

The Van Benthuysens, who live part of the year in their Toscana home and the balance in Chicago, spend much of their free time organizing and arranging the annual AFAF golf tournament and other fundraisers held during the year.

The spark

The idea to start AFAR began in December 2004 when the Van Benthuysens attended a Toys for Tots dinner at The Lakes Country Club in Palm Desert, their previous desert home. Fellow members brought hundreds of toys to the gathering; four young Marines were there to pick up those toys and take them back to the base.

“They didn’t look like they had plans for dinner or were sitting with anyone,” Walt recalls, “so I just walked up and said, ‘Why don’t you come over and join us?’” The couple was sitting with a large group, and during the course of dinner, the subject of golf came up. So they invited the Marines to come back to play golf. The Marines returned the favor and invited their hosts to the base for a golf outing.

Soon after, the Van Benthuysens arranged a dinner with around 40 couples, including the Marines from the base, accompanied by their wives or sweethearts. After the meal was finished, the hosts asked all the Marines to stand up, give their name, rank, how long they’d been in the military, and anything they wanted to tell
about themselves.

“We got to almost the last guy,” Judy recalls, “and he said he’d just gotten his orders and was being deployed that weekend. He added, ‘This is what we train for.’ He was excited to go. That’s when his wife―she didn’t look to be more than 18―got up and excused herself because she was crying. So I really felt so sad because after what happened with Vietnam, I said ‘We don’t want this to happen again.’”

Judy then raised her hand and asked the Marines what the community could do to show their support. “We wanted the guys and girls who are over there to know that they have people back here who are praying for them, who are caring about their families,” she explains. “We wanted to make sure they knew there are people here they could depend on.”

What started as a simple impulse quickly gathered momentum. “I just figured our group was going to make up a box and ship it, and that would be the end of that. But it ended up with people handing me $100 bills, and the next thing you know, I had $2,500.”

The Marine’s wife who broke down during the dinner e-mailed Judy and Walt a list of items the men would need during their deployment. “Then we went shopping,” Judy says. “You know how hard it is to spend $2,500 at Costco? We’re buying beef jerky, eye drops, Handi Wipes. It ended up that my whole garage was full,” she says laughing at the memory. “We had the Marines come down, and it was like a bucket brigade putting everything out for them.”

Getting organized

At that point, the couple recognized that they had tapped into something, “so that summer,” says Walt, “we went back to Chicago and I told Judy, ‘You know, that was the greatest feeling, being able to help, and we ought to really organize this and do it fulltime.’”

Friends at a Chicago law firm set them up as a 501(c) 3 charity. “We came back and we started formally in the fall,” he says. “We formed a board of directors. We have seven directors. Five have been directors from the start. There’s a real long-term commitment.”

The charity is all-volunteer. There are no paid employees. On and off, they have about 100 volunteers working throughout the year. “We started out that first year cautiously and set an objective to raise $25,000 and we were shocked, I mean people opened up their hearts,” Walt says. “The first year we raised $70,000. It just went way past anything we ever dreamed.” The next year, AFAF raised more than $100,000, then $150,000 and $200,000 in each of the next two years. “We now average between $200,000 and $250,000 each year,” he adds.

Giving thanks

Besides the major fundraiser in April at Toscana Country Club, which hosted 128 players, including Marines from the local bases this year, AFAF also organizes a couple of events that promote greater visibility. “They’re designed to get people in the valley to be more aware of the needs of the military,” he explains.

Five years ago the group started the “Adopt a Marine for Thanksgiving” program. By November 2011, AFAF had partnered with several other local country clubs and was able to host about 300 Marines for the holiday. Additionally, Walt arranged with Cardiff  Limousine & Transportation to charter seven busses that were dispatched early Thanksgiving morning to Twentynine Palms. The Marines were picked up and delivered to families at Toscana, Indian Ridge, The Hideaway, Rancho La Quinta, The Vintage Club, The Lakes, and The Springs.

The Marines were treated to meals at the country clubs or at their hosts’ homes, where they played in the pool, watched football games and enjoyed home-cooked Thanksgiving dinners.

Sports stars

At one time or another during the year, the Van Benthuysens acknowledge that AFAF touches some 50,000 military families. AFAF sponsors the youth sports program at Twentynine Palms where 1,800 kids are able to participate at half-price. “When we started, there were only about 400 or 500 kids in the program because the parents could afford to send only one or two kids, or could only pay for one sport,” Judy explains. There are now 20 different sports and activities offered at the base.

“That was one of our first efforts and it’s grown dramatically,” Walt adds. “The manager of the program just needed some support.”

More than enough to live for

The charity keeps the couple, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in March, on the go for much of the year. “It goes in waves,” Walt says. “Three months leading up to the golf tournament, it’s pretty much full time. Then you might get a few weeks’ break. Then you get to the next event. A month or two before the Adopt a Marine for Thanksgiving program starts, it’s pretty busy.” At that point, the Van Benthuysens are working from Chicago, confirming host homes for the Thanksgiving meal, arranging the bus transfers, all before returning on November 1 when they finalize everything.

Having four children and 10 grandchildren, the couple is grateful for the opportunity to touch the lives of those living far from their families. A few weeks before this summer’s golf tournament, the Van Benthuysens attended a church service where a visiting pastor’s words hit home. “He said, ‘Most people have enough to live on, but not enough to live for,’” Walt says. “It was very prophetic, because, for at least parts of the year, we sort of live for these Marines. It’s been more rewarding than you can ever imagine.”

Details

American Friends of Our Armed Forces. AFAF’s 3rd annual Military Appreciation Golf Tournament will take place at The Classic Club on November 22. AFAF’s 6th annual Adopt a Marine for Thanksgiving program is also on November 22. AFAF’s 9th annual Golf Classic is scheduled for April 22, 2013 at Toscana Country Club. (760) 340-0392; afafusa.com.