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Robins Proud: Gold Star Family honored during coping with COVID forum

Photo shows panelists sitting on stage with large information screens above them.

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – The August Robins Proud forum, “Parents, children and COVID-19: Supporting you and your child through the COVID-19 pandemic,” is held at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Aug. 25, 2020. The forum provided an opportunity for installation helping agencies to answer questions and provide resources regarding family mental health tools and tips, educational resources and services, along with child and youth programs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rodney Speed)

Gone, but not forgotten: Whitlock family keeps Air Force ties after son’s death through Gold Star program

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. - 2nd Lt. Nicholas Whitlock prepares for flight aboard his aircraft. Later, in 2012 at the rank of captain, Whitlock, who found his passion for flying at an early age, died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (courtesy photo)

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

Editor’s note: To view the Robins Proud forum in full, please visit www.facebook.com/RobinsPublicAffairs.

"We are better together!”

Those were the encouraging words Col. Brian Moore, Robins Installation Commander, said to the audience both attending the Robins Proud Forum held August 25 at the base chapel and those tuning in virtually via Facebook.

The latest forum, “Parents, children and COVID-19: Supporting you and your whole child through the COVID-19 pandemic,” began by honoring a Gold Star Family whose story helped focus on mental health, educational resources and services, along with child and youth programs, all capturing resilience in families.

“We have to help our children and our parents meet the educational needs that are prevalent in this stressful time,” Moore said. “We also want to make sure our parents and children continue to be mentally fit and resilient - spiritually, socially and physically.”

Photo shows Col. Moore standing at mic stand addressing audience with large screens behind him showing Capt. Nicholas Whitlock.
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Col. Brian Moore, Robins Installation Commander, speaks about Capt. Nicholas Whitlock, an Airman who died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, and his family, during the Robins Proud forum, Aug. 25, 2020, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The Whitlocks, who attended the Proud forum, are one of the Gold Star Families taken care of by Team Robins. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rodney Speed)
Photo shows Col. Moore standing at mic stand addressing audience with large screens behind him showing Capt. Nicholas Whitlock.
Robins Proud: Coping with COVID-19
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Col. Brian Moore, Robins Installation Commander, speaks about Capt. Nicholas Whitlock, an Airman who died supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, and his family, during the Robins Proud forum, Aug. 25, 2020, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. The Whitlocks, who attended the Proud forum, are one of the Gold Star Families taken care of by Team Robins. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rodney Speed)
Photo By: Rodney Speed
VIRIN: 200825-F-DO607-0416
Looking out into the audience, Moore acknowledged Gold Star parents – Jimmy and Clare Whitlock of Newnan, Georgia.

He described the pair as the epitome of strength and steadfastness.

Their son, 29-year-old Capt. Nicholas Whitlock, was a pilot with the 34th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida.

“Nick gave the last full measure of devotion Feb. 18, 2012, while flying in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during his fifth deployment,” Moore said. “He was an Airman that embodied all aspects of resilience.”

“This is a family of service and resilience,” he continued. “In this time of social distancing and telework, we need to re-invigorate and take care of each other.”

To help Team Robins take care of each other, Moore invited various installation helping agencies to speak about services they provide and answer questions about keeping their families resilient during the trying times of COVID-19.

Greg Purvis, a military family life counselor available to Team Robins, said individuals and families must deal with the anxiety they are feeling during this uncertain time.

“We need to open up discussions with our children and ask them why they feel a particular way and see what can be done to alleviate some of this worry,” Purvis said. “Some kids want to hear that their loved ones are going to be ok. But as caregivers, counselors and teachers, that is not something we can guarantee, and that is a tough truth. However, we can help them cope with the uncertainty of life by talking things out.”

Expounding on Purvis’ remarks, panelist Carolina Perez, a counselor at Robins with the Air Force Employee Assistance Program, suggested parents can strengthen children’s coping skills by helping them feel empowered.

She suggested giving them a sense of control by teaching them the safety guidelines and putting them into action - wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands.

“You may not know all of the answers and that is ok. But let them know you can partner together to find a solution,” said Perez.

Being flexible is another mindset that needs to be embraced by everyone, according to Lorna Fermanis, 78th Force Support Squadron director.

“We know some jobs at Robins do not lend themselves to telework – for example, production lines or those that work in secret areas or even our staff in the child development center,” said Fermanis.

She added, “But if your job can, talk to your supervisor and ask to work a different shift than you are used to. Supervisors have the flexibility to flex schedules.”

Maj. John Kauderman, 78th Medical Group optometrist, is a flight commander who is concerned about the well-being of his staff. He said it was important to attend the forum in order to provide his employees some solutions as they try to juggle working and having young children in school.

“I was really surprised about the resources that are available to all employees here on base,” said Kauderman. “I will be sharing this information with my staff. A lot of us have to deal with a lot of things, and we don’t know the outlets available to us. I now have a better understanding of what services are provided and who can use those services.”

Photo shows woman standing at mic stand addressing audience.
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Clare Whitlock, a Gold Star mother, speaks at the Robins Proud forum Aug. 25, 2020, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Whitlock, whose son died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, has been active in the community gaining support for veterans and fallen warrior families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rodney Speed)
Photo shows woman standing at mic stand addressing audience.
Robins Proud: Coping with COVID-19
ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. – Clare Whitlock, a Gold Star mother, speaks at the Robins Proud forum Aug. 25, 2020, at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. Whitlock, whose son died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012, has been active in the community gaining support for veterans and fallen warrior families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rodney Speed)
Photo By: Rodney Speed
VIRIN: 200825-F-DO607-0417
There are also services available for Gold Star Families.

The Robins Airman and Family Readiness Center provides those family members base access cards so they can receive services or attend events. The program ensures families of fallen Airmen are never forgotten.

For more information on the Gold Star Families Program at Robins Air Force Base, contact the Airman and Family Readiness Center at (478) 926-1256.

See below for various agencies to help families keep up their resiliency during this pandemic.

Child and Youth Education Services – School Liaison Office
- E-mail: RobinsAFBSchoolLiaison@us.af.mil
- Phone: (478) 327-5524 / DSN 497-5524 / Cell (478) 337-1003
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RobinsSLO/
- Website: https://www.robins.af.mil/About-Us/School-Liaison-Office/

Robins Child and Youth Programs
- E-mail: 78FSS.FSF.ServicesFlight@us.af.mil
- Phone: (478) 472-7293 / DSN 222-7293 / Cell (843) 830-7289

Military Family Life Counselor
- Phone: (478) 501-0730
- Free and confidential for active duty, guard, reserve and their families

Air Force Employee Assistance Program
- Phone: 1-866-580-9078, TTY 1-800-635-2883
- Website: www.afpc.af.mil/eap
- Free, confidential and voluntary services available 24/7/365 for civilian employees and their direct family members. Services: Life Coaching, Counseling, Legal and financial consulting, Work-Life Services, Webinars and Manager Support.

Family Advocacy – 78th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic
- Phone: (478) 327-8398
- Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Phone: (478) 216-4457