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A “Mo”dern-day hero

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexx Pons)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- “America is more than just a collection of citizens; it is a society of friends, neighbors and families coming together to make our home the embodiment of freedom, liberty and justice. This important vision has endured and stood as a testament to the character of the United States of America, and the armed service members who have faithfully and continually defended this vision. As an active-duty United States Air Force member, ShaDonna “Mo” McPhaul has been part of this – I extend my sincere thanks to her service and devotion to her country and fellow citizens.” – Congressman Mark Takai, 1st Congressional District of Hawaii

In 2013, Tech. Sgt. ShaDonna “Mo” McPhaul founded “Mo’s Heroes” while serving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, Hawaii. The non-profit organization provides services that help reintegrate homeless veterans into meaningful employment while addressing other complex issues they face.

McPhaul, now assigned to the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron here, decided a program this beneficial should not be kept solely in one location; and wanting to directly impact veterans within the local area, finalized the steps required to stand-up a Mo’s Heroes chapter in New Mexico.

“In order to start a local chapter, we had to submit a formal application to the Secretary of State and pay a fee to obtain our Certificate of Authority,” said McPhaul. “My vision is to bring Mo’s Heroes to all 50 states by 2017.”

“Veterans come from all states and serve our entire nation, why not provide them this service no matter where they are located,” she continued. “I have the honor of finishing my military career here at Cannon and as an Air Commando with Air Force Special Operations Command. I was always taught to leave a place better than when you arrived; I hope this program helps bring something special to the Cannon, Clovis and Portales communities.”

A veteran of 19 years within the Air Force, McPhaul’s military service includes tours in several states, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and in Afghanistan supporting Operations Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom.

“I have personally witnessed the set-backs, frustrations and barriers fellow veterans and their family members face when transitioning from military service to civilian life,” McPhaul stated. “I promised myself to do everything I could to help these veterans and family members obtain the educational, personal and employment resources they need to get real-time work experience, enter the labor market and succeed – and that should not stop now because I have relocated.”

Mo’s Heroes helps veterans achieve personal and professional goals through a wide-range of services which offer employment support, job placement and training, career counseling, resume preparation, case management, and transportation and clothing assistance.

“It has been a personal dream to help homeless veterans get back on their feet after I attended a ‘Hiring our Heroes’ job fair where Mrs. Michelle Obama was the guest speaker in 2011 at JBPHH,” McPhaul said. “I believe whole-heartedly in the message that ‘Everyone is a hero to Somebody’.”

On Aug. 17, as a culmination of her efforts to raise funds for Mo’s Heroes, Kirk Caldwell, Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, officially proclaimed Aug. 17 to be recognized as Mo’s Wings Monday. If that were not praise enough, David Ige, Governor of Hawaii, also sent warm regards to McPhaul expressing that Mo’s Heroes is a program their community needed greatly, providing veterans in need with hope for a brighter tomorrow.

The mother of one and proud native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, has additionally spent countless hours volunteering for the U.S. Vets, Next Step Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Oahu Veterans Center, Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, and Fleet Reserve Association Branch #46.

In a letter from United States Senator Mazie Hirono dated Sept. 1, McPhaul was personally congratulated for completion of her tour at Hickam and her unwavering direct support of service members, veterans and families within her Hawaii community. The senator lauded her suit drives, employment workshops, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Rehabilitation Program and various other initiatives stating that Mo’s Heroes had made a tremendous impact on many lives in Hawaii and across the nation.

“I have proudly served in the Air Force since I was 18-years-old and I am proud to add that I come from a military family,” McPhaul stated. “I have learned a lot about helping people, especially veterans, throughout my career. I want to ‘pay it back’ to those leaders and mentors who have influenced me and shaped my career – I want to give back to those who are in need. This is all about ensuring our veterans know that help is available to them and they do not have to suffer in silence.”

To find out more about Mo’s Heroes or how to get involved, e-mail volunteers@mosheroes.org.