By Susan Griggs
81st Training Wing
KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss., May 6, 2015 – For the past eight years, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Billy Wince has been passionate about his commitment to the Mississippi Special Olympics Summer Games here. In spite of several physical and personal challenges, his boundless enthusiasm and can-do spirit have inspired countless volunteers to share their talents and energy with the annual event, now in its 40th year.
Keesler will host the games for the 29th time May 8-10, and Wince will be in the heart of the action wherever he's needed -- chairing the awards committee, helping to coordinate operations or offering medical support.
Wince, a bioenvironmental engineering technician in the 81st Aerospace Medicine Squadron, has been at Keesler for more than 15 years on active duty, following 12 years in the Air Force Reserve. His involvement with Special Olympics is rooted in "a belief of involvement, the enjoyment of making a positive difference in life, and working with an amazing community of volunteers who want to create a special moment for our athletes," he said.
"Some folks rush in like a hurricane at the last moment and save the day," said Air Force Capt. Joshua Tate, 335th Training Squadron, one of the project officers. "With Billy, you could have a question for next year the day after this year's games are over, and he'll start working it for you and come up with a resolution."
The Go-to Guy
When it comes to coordinating with the 403rd Wing for support or anything on the flight line, Tate added, Wince is the go-to guy.
"He's fully committed to ensuring the entire games are a success," he said. "You'll find him helping with logistics, transportation and the procurement of water buffaloes, ice coolers and trucks. He's even solicited support from home improvement stores so we can have plywood, paint and other tools to make the games happen. Last year, for example, Billy was helping me run all over Biloxi for tables, chairs and other items to ensure the games went as planned."
Jackie Pope, 81st Force Support Squadron, is another project officer who marvels at Wince's skills in solving problems quickly.
"We were talking at last week's Special Olympics kickoff luncheon about the need for a bus that can accommodate wheelchairs," Pope recalled. "The next day, Billy called and said the Veterans Affairs Medical Center had made three of these buses available for us. It's just like magic!"
Wince said he tries to recruit new volunteers by showing them the Special Olympics video from the previous year and explaining how important their involvement is for the athletes, the Air Force and the Keesler community.
"Then I describe what the competitions look like on event day as the fields are filled with athletes, with volunteers cheering and competitors showing their best," he explained.
His favorite Special Olympics memory so far, he said, is from last year's games.
"The weather was threatening to cancel Special Olympics, but God must have heard our prayers," he recalled. "The sky opened over Keesler, and the rain stopped. So with support from the 403rd Wing and 81st FSS and some quick rearranging, we were able to complete all of the events throughout the day."
During the Special Olympics in 2011, Wince said, he was having serious back problems, but he worked through the pain and was able to delay his surgery. Five months later, he suffered a stroke.
"I thank God that I only suffered short-term memory problems," he said. "I was released from the hospital in January 2012 and was determined to continue my support of Special Olympics."
Other Volunteer Efforts
His volunteerism doesn't stop with the Special Olympics. He also chaired the 81st Medical Group's children's Christmas party, coordinated his squadron's cookout, served as a driver with Airmen Against Drunk Driving and was involved with efforts to support March of Dimes, American Heart Association, Project Cheer, Operation Hero, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity.
Wince said it may be his last year to work with Special Olympics, because he probably will be medically discharged by the end of the year. However, he insisted, "No matter what happens, the Keesler community is my family, my team and my home."