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Retired Airman keeps team Grissom supplied with masks

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander and his wife Kris pose for a selfie wearing masks donated by Juanita Withrow, 434th ARW drug demand reduction program manager. Withrow has produced almost 900 face masks, all of which have been donated to Grissom Airmen and the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Larry Shaw)

Col. Larry Shaw, 434th Air Refueling Wing commander, and his wife Kris pose for a selfie wearing masks donated by Juanita Withrow, 434th ARW drug demand reduction program manager. Withrow has produced almost 900 face masks, all of which have been donated to Grissom Airmen and the local community. (U.S. Air Force photo/Col. Larry Shaw)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --

For one retired Grissom Airman, leaving the military doesn’t mean sitting on the sidelines during a crisis.

Juanita Withrow, Grissom Drug Demand Reduction Program manager, has produced almost 900 face masks while working from home, all of which have been donated to Grissom Airmen and the local community.

“I provided about 400 masks to Grissom personnel, another 200 to Logansport State Hospital, and currently I’m working on 200 for Peru Community Schools,” said Withrow. “I’ve also sewn masks for nursing homes, the Highway Department, and individuals who have asked me for them.”

Withrow’s main motivation, she said, was a sense of duty.

“I’ve always been a very mission-oriented person,” said Withrow. “At first, I wanted to make sure my family had masks, but soon others were asking about them.

“I saw on the news that there weren’t enough masks to go around, and that other people were starting to sew masks for nursing homes and hospitals,” she continued. “I wanted to do something to help, and I had a skill I could use.”

Withrow, who has been teleworking during the crisis, has a sewing room which she goes to after she finishes her job-related tasks for the day. She frequently stays there, producing face masks, until late into the evening.

“There have been some weekends where I’ll wake up, have my coffee, and just make masks until Sunday night,” she said. “It’s helped give me a sense of purpose when I might have been stuck at home and not sure what to do with myself otherwise.” 

Withrow has not been alone in this effort, and coordinates with an online group that produces and distributes masks in the local area. 

“I came across a Facebook post about a group in Miami County that was forming to make masks, and I contacted them to let them know that I could sew and I wanted to help,” she said. “The group has grown a lot since then.”

In addition to the sewing group, Withrow has also received help from her husband, Master Sgt. Jeffrey Withrow, 434th Air Refueling Wing command post superintendent, who assists in cutting materials and assembling masks, as well as friends, family and coworkers who have donated fabric.

Withrow encouraged others to find ways they can help their community as well.

“Everyone has some skill they can use to help their community during this time,” she said. “Not everyone in our mask-making group can sew but some people cut fabric for us, others drive out and deliver the masks where they’re needed.

“Everyone can find ways to do their part,” she added.

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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Public Affairs Staff

Material contained on the Official Grissom Air Reserve Base Internet Web Site is written and produced by members of the 434th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office. The award-winning staff includes:



Douglas Hays
Chief, Public Affairs

Ben Mota
Public affairs Operations Chief

Staff Sgt. Josh Weaver
NCOIC of public affairs

Tech. Sgt. Jami Lancette
Staff writer

Staff Sgt. Chris Massey
Staff writer

Staff Sgt. Courtney Dotson-Essett
Staff writer

Airman 1st Class Harrison Withrow
staff writer