AF family helps each other stay strong through illnesses, struggles

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Burylo
  • Air University Public Affairs

Nine pills in one hand, a glass of pop in the other, she was on the verge of swallowing death.


Screams from her husband stopped LaTonya Lewis from committing suicide. Military OneSource and months of therapy helped heal the aftermath.


Stronger now to cope with the illnesses that almost cost her her life, Lewis, the community support coordinator at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., uses her past and her passion to oversee and promote base agencies that can help others heal and move on.


 The same way Military OneSource helped Lewis, the other agencies of the Integrated Delivery System help military families at Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex carry the weight of life's struggles, Lewis said.


"Every member on that team is there so the weight on your shoulders doesn't get too heavy to where you begin to crumble," Lewis said. "We want to be able to be on your shoulders helping you hold the world up and let you know you got it."


Dedicated to serving and repairing an individual's mental, spiritual, physical or social states, IDS agencies were created solely to help maintain a healthy military community in all areas of life.


Such IDS agencies include child and youth programs, the Airman and family readiness center, base chapel, mental health clinic, health and wellness center, educational and developmental intervention services, family advocacy, sexual assault response coordinator, Military OneSource, equal opportunity office, military family life consultant, key spouses and the spouses' clubs.


Each agency comes together under one system to ensure the care, safety and health of those associated with the base and provide them with whatever they need to thrive at home, at work and in life, Lewis said.


"The point is for those agencies to come together as a team and to work together to take care of the community," Lewis said. "They feed the community with the nourishment and nutrients that they need."


To care for an individual's mental state, agencies focus on the mind's awareness, adaptability, decision making and positive thinking.  


Agencies help renew an individual's core values or beliefs, perspective, perseverance and purpose in servicing the spirit. To strengthen the physical body, agencies help improve one's endurance, nutrition, recovery and strength. Finally, communication, connectedness, support and teamwork among family, friends and coworkers improve the social environment of military families.


Comprised of a diverse team of military, civilian, contractors and spouses, each agency is able to provide a wide variety of perspectives, professional advice and personal experiences to those they help.


 Each one is a hero, said Col. Trent Edwards, the 42nd Air Base Wing commander.


"The IDS and all the people who comprise the IDS agencies are heroes to me," Edwards said. "They are charged with educating, training, inspiring and uplifting Airmen and families. When life happens and people need help carrying the load, the IDS is there for them."


 Edwards said he hopes others can benefit and be encouraged by Lewis' story.


 It took a lot of courage and strength for Ms. LaTonya Lewis to share her personal story and triumph," he said. "She is a great example of how Airmen can benefit from IDS and go on to achieve success in life."


 Lewis encourages everyone to visit or call an agency if they or someone they know needs help. Doing so promotes and improves the health of a strong, united Air Force family, she said.


"We don't want to have a suicide, we don't want to have another lost person, we don't want to have another hurt person, we don't want to have another divorce, we don't want to have another runaway child, we don't want to have another broken home, we don't want anything else destroyed," Lewis said.


"We want to have our Maxwell and Gunter family glued together,” she said. “The doors are open and the phones are ready to be answered."