CE constructs home, lasting impression

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Amber Carter
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"Welcome home," said Master Sgt. Norman Crittle, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron heavy repair superintendent, as Teri Evans, mother of Airman 1st Class Chris Evans, arrived back to her newly repaired house May 9 in Fairfield, California.

Chris Evans was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia in 2014 during his technical school at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas. After undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, his body rejected the treatment and Evans died Dec. 14, 2014.

Evans, a Fairfield native, was buried in his hometown with members of the 312th Training Squadron from Goodfellow AFB and from San Antonio Military Medical Center, Texas, where he was taken for treatment after he was diagnosed, in attendance. After the funeral, they visited Teri Evans in her home.

"The idea came through the 312th Training Squadron," Crittle said. "They visited Teri Evans and noticed the house could use some repairing, so their commander contacted ours and asked for volunteers to help organize the event."

Crittle, learning that he was more involved in this family's life than he had originally thought, volunteered as the organizer for the home repair project.

"It kind of hit a little closer to home and here's why," Crittle said. "I've only been at Travis for about eight months and when I got here, I rented a house. My landlord is Chris Evans' father. I heard the story from his point of view about his son being sick. After talking to Teri, I put the pieces together, so it hit me on an even more personal level knowing that I am living in a home that belongs to them."

It took three months to organize the project, which involved approximately 50 Airmen from the 60th CES and the Travis First Sergeants Council.

"Just about every Air Force specialty code in civil engineering had representation out there," Crittle said. "Heavy repair, which includes 'dirt boys' and structures, basically all of the operations side, so electricians, pavement, plumbers, power production, logistics and explosive ordnance disposal all took part in the project."

Repairs included a new fence, exterior painting, window repair, landscaping, electrical wiring throughout the house and interior decorations.

"Giving up a day to help a grieving mother fix a few things around her home was the absolute right thing to do," said Master Sgt. Christy Vaughn, 60th CES first sergeant. "Airmen and their families all serve this nation, so it is important that we, as a whole, support each other."

Framed photos of each member of the household became the centerpiece for the interior reveal.

"I had taken all three of my kids to San Francisco for New Year's Eve in 2012 and had street vendors draw pictures of all four of us individually," Teri Evans said. "The Airmen found the pictures on my table, went and framed them for me and hung them on my wall. When I saw the pictures up there, that was the cherry on top."

This project has led to future plans for the house that may have not happened without the group effort that went into it.

"Before Chris died, I told him I was going to buy a house with four bedrooms so he could have his own room when he came home to stay with me," Teri Evans said. "Now, I have decided I am going to stay here and add an extra room in the house just for him. I want to put a flag, his uniform and some of the projects he was working on in the room so I have a place full of memories of him. My son was just really an awesome guy. He was looking forward to beating the leukemia and was planning future projects even while in the hospital. I never would have known how awesome Airmen were until my son got in and, unfortunately, got sick. I got to see real-life heroes."

Giving back to the community and embracing the military culture of brothers and sisters in arms was a driving force behind the repair project.

"We are not a Fortune 500 company. What we do is a profession of arms," Crittle said. "It could've been me who passed away and I would hope one of these guys would do the same for my family if something were to happen to me. These are the type of things that make me proud to serve. Seeing her face when she saw the house for the first time was priceless."

After admiring the repairs and all of the new additions to the house, Evans showed her gratitude to the Airmen involved.

"My son was part of an organization that from day one has been so supportive," she said. "They held fundraisers and provided moral and emotional support. Now I can come home and see my house and it puts a smile on my face. When I saw all of the work they did, I couldn't believe it. It looked like a new house. I hugged each one of the Airmen and told them thank you. This has really been a blessing."