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AF Assistance Fund helps Airman

Tech. Sgt. Leo Mangahas, 664th Combat Communication Squadron NCO in charge of quality assurance, poses for a photo at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, March 16, 2021.

Tech. Sgt. Leo Mangahas, 664th Combat Communication Squadron NCO in charge of quality assurance, poses for a photo at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, March 16, 2021.

This photo is of Tech. Sgt. Leo Mangahas' family in the Philippines when he was a child.

This photo is of Tech. Sgt. Leo Mangahas' family in the Philippines when he was a child. From left to right in relation to Mangahas: Leo Mangahas, his cousin, his grandfather, his cousin, his grandmother, his mother, and his brother. (Courtesy photo)

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam --

Money was tight and Leo’s parents were left with a difficult decision. Leo was the middle child of three and his father decided to leave the family in search of work and better pay in another country. He found a job as a construction worker on the island of Guam but the family had to stay behind.

"My grandfather became our father figure during this time growing up," said Tech. Sgt. Leo Angelo Mangahas, 644th Combat Communication Squadron NCO in charge of quality assurance. "He took care of my sister, me, my younger brother, and my mom. So, we grew up with our mother and grandparents taking care of us. My grandfather was basically like a father to us early on. My grandmother died while we were still in the Philippines so it was just my grandfather for our last years there."

By age 13, Leo’s father was able to transfer his wife and children to Guam in 1998 so they could be together as a family once more. Leo grew up and joined the U.S. Air Force. Ten years after moving with his family to Guam and leaving his grandfather behind in the Philippines, newly promoted 23 year old Senior Airman Mangahas, made another move to Osan Air Base, Korea. Only this time, a more difficult challenge lie ahead.

"I was getting dressed in the morning for work and I got a phone call from my mom," said Mangahas. "‘Your grandfather has passed away.’ I was shocked. He was the man who raised me. I couldn’t believe it. The last thing I wanted to do was to go to work that morning, but I had to.

"During the time I was in-processing and I mentioned this news to the shirt, so he asked me if I wanted to go home," Mangahas said. "I said ‘yes, I want to be able to see my grandfather one more time and be with my family.’ But I told him I didn’t have funds to get there for his funeral because I just moved, I was new, and I had only been in [the Air Force] less than three years.

"He said, ‘let me get back with you.’ That afternoon he said, ‘I’m reaching out to the Air Force Assistance Fund and maybe they could help you," Mangahas continued. "Sure enough, the Air Force Aid Society covered my airfare to go back home to the Philippines. They sent me back there for free and all I had to do was take emergency leave. It was a huge help. I didn’t know that there was an organization out there to help Airman."

Q: You mentioned both the Air Force Assistance Fund and the Air Force Aid Society. What’s the difference?
A: "So, there are four charitable organizations within the Air Force Assistance Fund. We’ve got the Air Force Enlisted Village, the LeMay Foundation, the Air Force Villages Charitable Foundation, and the Air Force Aid Society. The Air Force Aid Society is the main one that offers grants and scholarships to Airmen for emergency leave or other types of emergency situations. If you’re really in need, they offer 0% interest loans as well. For instance, if your vehicle broke down and you didn’t have the funds to repair it, you could reach out to them for a loan."

Q: Do you donate to the Air Force Assistance Foundation?
A: "I’ve been donating every year since I received help as a Senior Airman. I’m not expecting to receive any assistance in the future, but I donate because when I see my Airmen receiving, for example, emergency airfare, it makes me happy. I know I’ve contributed to it and they’re able to use it and that’s a great feeling."

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A: "The Air Force Assistance Fund is a really good organization. I like telling my Airmen that we have these resources. It was only during the time of an emergency that I found out that these kinds of things are available, so I like sharing my story with everyone.

"If you’re in need, reach out. The Air Force Assistance Fund is out there and it’s for us, so if you are experiencing an emergency situation consider asking for help."

For more information on who is eligible to receive financial support from the Air Force Assistance Fund or how to donate, please visit their website at https://www.afassistancefund.org.

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