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A shining star

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Manuel Martinez
  • 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
“We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…we all have something to give," said Former United States President George H. W. Bush, during his 1989 inaugural address.

And one Air Commando here found her higher purpose – and that was to volunteer.

Staff Sgt. Destini Yaden, a mental health services specialist assigned to the 27th Special Operations Medical Operations Squadron, has been volunteering as a mentor for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors for the past nine years. She has had an unwavering commitment to provide support to families after suffering a loss of a loved one herself. She found out about the TAPS program from an Air Force Honor Guard team member, on which she served previously.

“When working in the honor guard, you generally do not really have the opportunity to give back to those families you rendered honors to,” said Yaden. “I heard about TAPS through a coworker of mine and ever since then, I kept going back year after year.”

Yaden has contributed over a 1,500 hours to TAPS and has only missed one National Camp due to a deployment.

June 2016, Yaden was awarded The Daily Point of Light Award. This award was originally created by Bush during his presidency to highlight individuals making a significant difference in their community, and now is awarded by The Points of Light organization that was later founded by him.

“Receiving the award was a shock to me,” said Yaden. “I have always just tried to be the best big sister.”

Yaden attributes her dedication and desire to serve her fellow man, as well as her country, to her mother.

“I came into the military to follow in my mother's footsteps,” said Yaden. “I also wanted to serve my country after seeing some of my friend's lose their parents in combat while I was growing up in Fort Hood, Texas.”

Yaden plans to do a full 20 years in the military. She also plans to have a post-military career as a licensed alcohol and drug abuse counselor and has taken steps to that dream.

“I have already taken my test for my certification and I am looking forward to seeing my results in the next few months,” said Yaden.

“I have been in mental health career field for six years now,” Yaden continued. “My job has helped me directly aid those experiencing difficult times, and be there for them in their times of need.”

But perhaps the biggest reward for her so far has been a profoundly deep relationship she grew to share with Brooke Nyren, a young girl who lost her father several years ago. Yaden has helped Nyren navigate through her grief and overcome her tragic loss. In fact, Yaden’s connection with Nyren had such a profound impact in her own life that it drove her decision to retrain into the mental health profession – she wanted to serve and help others the way she was able to with Nyren.

This year was the first year she was not able to mentor Nyren, but claimed she has experienced the fruit of her labors through her.

“I am still thankful for all my experiences with the program,” Yaden said. “Not only did I get to give back to one of my own, but I was able to watch Brooke grow up and become a mentor after the nine years I spent with her. This program has rewarded me in more ways than I ever could have imagined, and I am forever grateful for those experiences.”

To learn more about TAPS or to get involved, members can view their website or contact 1-800-959-TAPS (8277).