An Airman’s family receives a grant for a much-needed wheelchair lift

With 15 years of service, Captain Beau Haertling recognizes the many opportunities the Air Force provided to him and his family. While serving his country and growing a career in the engineering field, the Air Force gave Capt Haertling “peace of mind,” he explains.

Peace of mind is especially important for the captain and his family. The Haertlings have four children and are in the process of adopting three more. Their oldest son Daniel and daughter, Emma, 16, have Friedreich’s ataxia, a form of muscular dystrophy. Daniel unfortunately passed away in 2019 after battling with FA for 15 years, and Emma’s condition has progressed and has greatly affected her mobility.

“It’s an extremely rare, progressive, genetic disease,” Capt Haertling explains. “Emma’s condition has progressed to the stage where she requires a power wheelchair to attend school and other appointments.” The Haertlings not only needed a vehicle that could support their large family, but it would also have to support a wheelchair lift.

The couple found a van that met all of their requirements, but it wasn’t compatible with the wheelchair lift that the Haertlings’ medical insurance covered. When they found a lift that was compatible, it would cost them $13,000 out of pocket.

Through the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Capt Haertling learned about a new grant offered by the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS). The Special Needs Assistance grant helps EFMP families who may face increased financial requirements.

When AFAS heard about Capt Haertlings’ situation, they told him they would cover any part of the lift that the insurance wouldn’t. The Society “bent over backwards to help us beyond what I thought possible,” says Capt Haertling. “I was blown away; it was far more than we had ever hoped.”

Finally, having the wheelchair lift eased a huge burden for the family. Now, they don’t have to worry about how to get Emma to appointments and school.

Plus, over the summer, they were able to take a family road trip for the first time in five years.

“Just being able to drive together as a family to go to church is such a huge blessing,” Capt Haertling says. And to the generous donors who made this possible, “Thank you so much for giving Emma some small semblance of normalcy.”

When Capt Haertling enlisted in the Air Force shortly after the attacks of September 11th, he didn’t know what he wanted to do for a career. Now, 20 years later, he has a rewarding career, and he has peace of mind knowing that his Air Force family is always there to support him.

Incorporated in 1942, the Air Force Aid Society continues to meet the unique needs of Airmen and Guardians. AFAS works to support and enhance the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force missions by providing emergency financial assistance, educational support, community programs and disaster relief to Air Force and Space Force families. In 2021, AFAS provided over $13.5 million in assistance to more than 19,000 Air Force and Space Force families. Visit www.afas.org to learn more, apply for assistance, or to donate.