A grant from AFAS after Hurricane Michael gives one family hope.

Retired Master Sergeant Jason Lingenfelter and his wife Air Force Veteran Christy Lingenfelter both joined the U.S. Air Force under the Delayed Enlistment Program during their junior year of high school, enlisting in 1993 right after graduation.

For MSgt Lingenfelter, the Air Force allowed him to serve his country while being the first member of his family to travel outside the United States. For his wife, joining was a way to carry on her family’s military lineage that went back to her grandfather’s World War II service years. For both, the Air Force gave them a life of adventure, new experiences, and lifelong friends who they consider family.

With 33 years of combined service between them, the Lingenfelters donated to the Air Force Aid Society (AFAS) for many years, never thinking they would need it for themselves someday. In 2018, Hurricane Michael changed that completely.

For the two days before the historic hurricane made landfall, the couple helped evacuate the residents at Tyndall Air Force Base. When the Lingenfelters then tried to evacuate to nearby Dothan, AL, there was no housing left. Exhausted, they returned to their home in the early hours of October 10, 2018, not wanting to be on the roads when the hurricane hit.

As Michael moved across the panhandle, the Lingenfelters watched the trees being whipped around by the wind before losing power. At 2 p.m., a tree from their neighbor’s yard fell on their roof, creating a two-foot hole in their son’s bedroom. The roof began to fail where shingles were ripped off by the wind, the garage ceiling caved in on top of a car, and the ceiling collapsed in their daughter’s room. “We were holding the doors shut with all our might to keep the poltergeist on the other side from coming in,” Christy vividly recalls.

To describe in a few words what it felt like to live through one of the strongest hurricanes to hit the U.S. is virtually impossible for the Lingenfelters. “Our ears popped with the pressure change in the house. Water was pouring in all the light fixtures, ceiling vents, and electrical outlets. We were using bowls, pots, pans, and towels to try and contain the water as best we could,” they describe.

When Michael finally passed, the family went outside to assess the damage. What they saw was devastating. “Hurricane Michael tore through our community like a spinning wrecking ball. I can only equate it to an atomic bomb going off over the course of three hours,” Christy recounts.

With their house in ruins; with no electricity, sewage, water, or cell phone service, the Lingenfelters were truly cut off from civilization. Fortunately, their retired military neighbor told them that AFAS was providing grants for military members and retirees in the area affected by the hurricane.

“We drove an hour and a half to Eglin Air Force Base to receive the $1,500 grant check, and we were so excited how easy it was,” Christy says. They bought several tarps, roofing, hammers, and nails so they could patch up the roof themselves until it could be permanently repaired.

The grant was part of $6.5 million in funds AFAS provided to Airmen impacted by Hurricane Michael. For the Lingenfelters, it gave them the hope that they could endure the coming days and weeks ahead. While they now adjust to the “new normal,” the family is grateful that they have drywall and a roof over their heads. “We are doing better than many others,” they admit.

The Lingenfelters have never been more grateful for their Air Force family. “Without you, we would not have found the hope to forge ahead and keep pushing to recovery.” Paying it forward, MSgt Lingenfelter says he and his family have chosen to stay in the area to support their military and local community, positive that both Tyndall and the community will recover.

The Air Force Aid Society is the official charity of the U.S. Air Force and has been meeting the unique needs of Airmen and their families since 1942. AFAS works to support and enhance the USAF mission by providing emergency financial assistance, educational support, and community programs. Over the last decade, AFAS has provided more than $180 million in direct support to Air Force families. Visit afas.org to learn more, apply for assistance or make a donation.