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An experience like no other: SOMS 2017

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

“I really didn’t know how to feel when I was told that I would be an Airman sponsor for the Special Olympics,” expressed Airman Basic Tyshon Singletary, 335th Training Squadron student. “We really didn’t know what to expect. All we knew at the time was that we were losing out on time for ourselves.”

For first-time participants, Singletary and Airman 1st Class Sierra Ward, 335th Training Squadron students, Special Olympics Mississippi Summer Games 2017 turned out to be the most amazing experience thus far in their Air Force careers.

It all began May 19, 2017, at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss. where the Airmen met Nicholas Berry, a 15-year-old athlete from Pontotoc, Miss. This was Berry’s first time participating in the Special Olympics.

“I wanted to do this because I could finally do something active and get outside to do a lot of fun stuff,” said Berry. “I competed in the 200-meter dash and the standing long jump.”

After the initial meet and greet between the two Airman sponsors and the athlete, they proceeded to the dorm room to get Berry all settled in. The evening was an icebreaker for the group. Together, they toured around the Triangle, played video games and had dinner. All the while making memories that would last a lifetime.

“At first, Nick was shy and laid back. Honestly, I think we all were a little nervous at first because reality is we were all strangers,” explained Ward. “After mingling and getting to know each other, we all opened up and was not afraid to be ourselves and it was great.”

Not only were the Airmen able to see Berry compete in his events, but Berry was able to experience a little bit of Air Force life. They talked about life and their experiences in the Air Force thus far. They also had a friendly competition of air hockey and skee ball where the loser had to do push-ups while waiting for Berry to compete.

Now, the moment they had all been waiting for had arrived. It was time for Berry to compete. They were filled with excitement.

On your mark…get set…GO!!!!

Berry took off around the track with the Airmen sponsors cheering and recording the whole entire way to the finish line.

“I was ecstatic,” expressed Singletary. “I was so excited for him and it made me feel like I was a part of it even though I wasn’t.”

Berry won a silver medal for the 200-meter dash and a gold medal for the standing long jump competition.

“The best part was seeing them cheering for me when I came across the finish line,” said Berry. “I felt like I had finally gotten somewhere and it made be very happy.”

The smile that was on Berry’s face when he crossed the finish line never left. The Special Olympics has allowed three strangers to build a friendship in a matter of only two days.

The Special Olympics did take time away from the Airman sponsors, but it ended up giving laughter and joy in return and overall it reminded the Airmen about the importance of ‘Service before self’, one of the Air Force core values.

For Singletary and Ward, it is the act of doing something for someone else and seeing how selflessness impacts the happiness of others that brings them happiness.

“I would definitely encourage others to be a part of this experience,” said Ward. “I posted the colors at the Special Olympics before while in JROTC, but it was nothing like being an Airman sponsor. They have kept me laughing and it has been absolutely amazing to share this experience with them.”