KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The official opening and ribbon-cutting of the Lighthouse was held in Larcher Chapel, here, Nov. 1.
The Lighthouse is a part of the Larcher Chapel where permanent party Airmen, airman basic to senior airmen, can interact and build connections with one another.
“We chose the name ‘The Lighthouse’ because the lighthouse is the ultimate symbol of hope,” said Chaplain (Col.) Donnette Boyd, 81st Training Wing chaplain. “No matter what the weather is like lighthouses are always helpful, especially when the weather is bad.”
The Chaplain Corps worked with the Airman’s Council to give Airmen free reign to pick out furniture, games, and decorations to go inside the area that would be dedicated to them.
“This is really a place built for Airmen, by Airmen,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Steven Wichern, 81st TRW chaplain. “We’ve all helped build the lighthouse into what it is today.”
The area is equipped with gaming stations, a kitchen, massage chairs, a music room, and more. The Lighthouse serves as more than just a hangout spot.
Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st TRW commander, held a meeting with Keesler’s dorm residents, where she asked what they needed. They asked for a centralized place where they could meet and get to know other Airmen.
“Our purpose of being here is to take care of the needs of Airmen,” said Boyd. “We have to be innovative in our approach in reaching their needs and we wanted to build a place where Airmen can connect. We definitely want to impact the suicide rates within the Air Force, but that is only symptom to a much deeper problem. We’re trying to get to the root of what the problem is and part of that problem is they don’t feel a sense of connection.”
The opening of this part of the lighthouse is only phase one of a three phase process. If the Lighthouse is used enough in phase one, more of the building will be dedicated to Airmen in phase two. In phase three, the building will be turned into a full on clubhouse just for permanent party Airmen.
The Chaplain Corps fully supports this idea even though it will take away one of their facilities on base.
“We’re giving Airmen this resource because we love them,” said Boyd. “This is a demonstration of how much we love them. Meeting the needs of our Airmen will include giving up our time, facility, and money. There is nothing a chaplain shouldn’t do to take care of their Airmen.”
The Lighthouse is only one of the products that stemmed from the meeting that Blackwell had with Keesler’s dorm residents.
“This is a testament to what can happen if you use your voice,” said Blackwell. “Every voice matters on this base.”