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Salute to Youth ensures mission readiness

Staff Sgt. Amber Rembert, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron dorm leader and her daughter Kiya, spend time together after lunch at the Salute to Youth event, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Aug. 8, 2014. Salute to Youth began as a way for base affiliated families, with an emphasis on those with special needs, to become familiar with local education opportunities for their children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

Staff Sgt. Amber Rembert, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron dorm leader and her daughter Kiya, spend time together after lunch at the Salute to Youth event, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Aug. 8, 2014. Salute to Youth began as a way for base affiliated families, with an emphasis on those with special needs, to become familiar with local education opportunities for their children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ian Dudley/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The Airman and Family Readiness Center, along with the Youth Center, hosted the 5th annual Salute to Youth event here, Aug. 8.

Salute to Youth began as a way for base affiliated families, with an emphasis on those with special needs, to become familiarized with local education opportunities for their children.

"Being in the military can be stressful," said Raymond Vasquez, 30th Force Support Squadron school liaison officer. "When you have a special needs child there are already enough stressors and you have all these decisions to make about schools. So we bring them all together in one place to ease the stress of the parents just a little bit."

More than 15 public, private, charter and online schools attended the event, along with community partners who provide services for special needs.

"We invite the schools, but we also invite community partners who offer resources and services to our families with special needs," said Vasquez.

The event included a carnival-like atmosphere with games, face painting, a bounce house and free lunch.

"I was able to go and have fun." said Capt. Andrews Gonzalez, 30th FSS operations officer "I got to eat a hotdog and watch my kid bounce in the bouncy castle and at the same time I got good information."

Gonzalez is the father of a special needs child, Lena Gonzalez. This is the second year the family has attended the event.

In the last year, Lena has been able to participate in swimming lessons and horseback riding lessons because of this event, said Gonzalez.

For those involved, the event proved successful while bringing the community together in multiple ways.

"Now that we have a year under our belt, we can share what we have learned with other families," said Gonzalez. "When you have activities like this, you have a better grasp of the base community. So it's very important to do this on a recurring basis."

Salute to Youth is the culmination of months of planning and the hard work of more than 60 volunteers from all over base.

"I think it is amazing to see so many resources coming together," said Tech. Sgt. Brittany Spoutz, 30th FSS readiness NCO. "There is no way we could do it without the volunteers."

Events like this aim to relieve already stressful military lifestyles.

"Knowing that we have all of these resources available right here on base will help keep everyone focused on the mission," said Spoutz.