Memorial Day flags placed at Grangeville Cemetery

Winds whip the flags placed by volunteers at Grangeville Cemetery in this file photo. 

HANFORD — It’s the days immediately following a tragic accident that can be the most confusing and stressful; when those affected may need the most help — and that’s exactly what The Wingman Foundation offers.

From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in downtown Hanford, The Wingman Foundation is hosting a 20-mile Memorial Day Walk to honor fallen Navy and Marine Corps aircrew and to support the Gold Star families left behind.

“When these tragedies take place, [the Wingman Foundation] springs into gear and they’re there,” said local memorial walk organizer Brianne McCallister. “It’s really nice to know they’re there if, God forbid, if the worst case happens and something happens to my spouse, it’s nice to know they’re going to be there.”

McCallister, a Central Valley native married to a Naval pilot stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, became active with the national nonprofit organization after seeing how much assistance they offered to friends’ families that were affected by piloting mishaps.

“They really stepped in and helped those families during those really tough times, those really crucial times, right after a mishap takes place. The Navy has procedures and all that to help families, but Wingman really filled the gaps,” McCallister said.

The Wingman Foundation, formed in 2014 by three Marine Corps pilots, assists in the aftermath of a serious or fatal aircraft injury in the form of travel arrangements for family and close friends, funeral expenses and squadron memorials. The organization has also set up scholarships in honor of fallen aviators. 

McCallister said that many families who have been on the receiving end of help from the Wingman Foundation go on to work with the foundation to ensure others can get help, as well.

The Memorial Day walk, which kicks off at 6 a.m. Saturday morning in Civic Park, will coincide with multiple other Wingman Foundation walks around the country.

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“A lot of families come and tell stories and talk about their loved ones.  As much as we’re trying to raise money for the organization, the focus of this walk is really to remember and honor those that have lost their lives serving our country,” she said.

Making five four-mile laps around downtown Hanford, walkers will stop every mile to pay respects to specific individuals who lost their lives in piloting mishaps.

Remembrances will be made for Navy pilot Lt. Matthew Ira Lowe and weapon systems officer Lt. Nathan Hollingsworth Williams, who lost their lives in a 2011 crash during a practice routine just west of Naval Air Station Lemoore in 2011.

Registration is $30, which comes with a T-shirt and a swag bag. Walkers can walk as much or as little of the 20 miles as they desire. A break will be provided for lunch.

Those interested can register or donate at https://fundraise.wingmanfoundation.org/team/212169. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/711912905877583.

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Contact the reporter at pbowman@hanfordsentinel.com.

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