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Ice Cream for Life

MEMPHIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 23, 2015) -- The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines family as "a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation." The members of the 164th Airlift Wing exemplify this plus more. When Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Dresten Gaboya was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the 164th rallied to support their family member.

     "Gaboya is a really good guy," Senior Master Sgt. Jim Lehmen said, the 164th Maintenance Group Aid Shop supervisor. "I could immediately tell that he was going to be a great asset to the shop."

     "He is just one of those people, on your team, that you want to bat for and help out." Lehmen said.

     When Lehmen found out about what Gaboya and his family were going through, he told his leadership the situation, and it ended up making its way to the 164th Wing Commander Col. Mark Devine.

     "I was in a staff meeting with Col. Devine,  and he had been talking to Chief Master Sgt. Kenny McFeggan over in operations squadron , trying to brainstorm some type of way to raise money for Gaboya," said Lt. Col. Keith Stiles, the 164th Maintenance Squadron commander "They kicked out the idea 'let's sell ice cream sandwiches,' and I said 'OK'. He said 'sell ice cream sandwiches for an exuberant amount of money'," Stiles said as he laughed.
"I took that as a 'go do'," Stiles said.

     Stiles contacted Prairie Farms dairy to see if there was any possible way they could donate the ice cream sandwiches needed to accomplish the task he was given.

     "I called and left a message; nothing," Stiles said. "I called again and left a message; nothing. Then the Tuesday after Memorial Day, I received a call from Tommy Stevenson, an operations manager with Prairie Farms Dairy. He said that he had gotten a message from me saying that I was looking for a donation."

     Stiles explained to Stevenson about Gaboya's situation, and about how the 164th wanted to sell ice cream sandwiches to help raise money for the Gaboya family. Stevenson was instantly on board with the plan, and asked Stiles how many sandwiches he would need to accomplish his task.

     "I told him 1,000, and he said 'done'," said Stiles.

     Gaining a commitment from Prairie Farms for the ice cream was only phase one of the plan. Stiles felt that in order for this plan to be successful, he needed the commitment and support of the rest of the 164th family.

     "You can't sell ice cream without an ice cream truck," he said.

     Stiles thought about the little carts used on base to transport items from one area to the next. He figured that would be the best means of distributing the ice cream to the different Air Guard members across the base. Then came phase two, who would he ask to be the ice cream man?

     "I knew we needed a person, so I went through my mental rolodex of who would be the best ice cream salesman," Stiles said. "And a name popped in my mind immediately, Senior Master Sgt. Jimmy Murphy, he's talkative," He said with a laugh.

     Stiles went to Murphy, 164th Maintenance Group Aircraft Maintenance Element Supervisor, and explained his plan on how he wanted to execute the selling of the ice cream. Stiles wanted him to start thinking about how to turn one of the carts into a makeshift ice cream truck.

     After the cart was designed and ready to go, Murphy, along with Master Sgt. Danny Stone, loaded up the ice cream and began driving around the base selling ice cream sandwiches for five dollars each. For those members that did not want ice cream but still wanted to help the cause, they could just donate money or an hour of paid time off for Gaboya to use.

     "The fact that the base, for someone like myself, would put time and effort into it, I feel extremely blessed and humbled," Gaboya said, as he held back tears.

     Over a short 4 day time span, the 164 managed to rally together and raise over $2,800 and 80 hours of leave in support of Gaboya.