D.C. Guard celebrates Ann and Dave's new place
Family Readiness Center dedicated to memory of former Commanding General Wherley and his wife killed in the 2009 Metrorail collission
WASHINGTON, DC (09/17/2010)(readMedia)-- The District of Columbia National Guard dedicated the new Major General David F. Wherley Jr. and Mrs. Ann (Strine) Wherley Family Readiness Center at the D.C. National Guard Armory Sept 12. The event included distinguished guests and speakers such as District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D.C. Commanding General Major General Errol R. Schwartz, and General and Mrs. Wherley's family.
The event was at times both solemn and joyous as those present celebrated the lives of General and Mrs. Wherley and the good work the dedicated couple did for soldiers and airmen of the DC National Guard before-and after-losing their lives in the tragic June 22, 2009, Metrorail collision.
General Wherley was the commander of the District of Columbia National Guard from 2003 until his retirement in 2008. Before this position, General Wherley was also the Wing Commander of the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard, that famously ordered fighter aircraft to provide defensive coverage over Washington DC and the surrounding area immediately after the September 11 attacks.
Wherley's wife, Mrs. Ann C. (Strine) Wherley, was a successful mortgage broker, an active participant in numerous Guard programs, and a civilian volunteer in the community.
However, to all present, they are most remembered for their many years of dedication to National Guard Family Readiness Group and youth outreach programs in the Washington DC area. In a tragic irony, they were returning from a volunteer orientation program for the Wounded Warrior Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center when they lost their lives in the Metrorail accident.
One of Wherley's legacies was the establishment of the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge program which provides a second chance for at-risk youth and high school dropouts. He often said it was one of the hardest tasks he had ever undertaken in his storied career as a fighter pilot and commander.
"It is sometimes difficult to properly remember the lives of those we so admired," said DC Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton in her address at the event. "However, this time it is not. I am proud to have worked alongside General Wherley in advocating for DC National Guardsmen and their families and honored to be at this celebration of his life."
Congresswoman Norton also described the Major General David F. Wherley, Jr. D.C. National Guard Retention and College Access Act she and General Wherley worked on together to bring federally funded D.C. Guard benefits more in line with other states as part of his commitment to service in the Washington DC community.
"I remember how proud he was to show up to my office and let me know he had bought a house in Washington D.C. and was now a citizen of the district," she said. "Their deaths were a loss to the entire city of Washington D.C., not just the National Guard family."
Soldiers, airmen, and their families took time to reflect on the Wherleys' lives and their dedication to the community.
"They were always there for whatever we needed," said Master Sgt. Shannon Goodwin, former D.C. Guard Family Readiness Group director. "We didn't have to go to them, they always came to us. 'What do you need?' 'What can we do?' Whether it was talking to the mayor or giving their own money to start a food pantry, their commitment was to improving the lives of the D.C. National Guard family."
The Wherleys' service to the D.C. National Guard continued even after their lives ended. Part of the ceremony included a presentation by General Wherley's daughter, Elizabeth Regan, who recalled being proud of her father when she was a small child, and watching his Phantom sore in the sky one day.
"I remember how blue the sky was," Regan told a tearful audience that included former National Guard Bureau Chief, retired Lt. Gen. Russell C. Davis, also a former D.C. commanding general. She was reminded of that sky during the U.S. Air Force missing-man flyover at Arlington National Cemetery on the day of their services last year.
Wherley's sister, Clare Wherley, presented two checks totaling $25,000, one for the Family Readiness Center, and the other for the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Program, a teen outreach and education program General Wherley and his wife were devoted to.
The new space and donations come at a critical time for the Family Readiness Center. With the nation at war for more than nine years now, the support of Guardsmen's families and civilian lives is making the mission possible.
To continue this support, the Family Readiness Center has greatly expanded the services it offers to service members and their families to include programs for education and financial support, and a well-stocked food pantry.
"We want D.C. National Guardsmen to know we are here for them 24/7, 365 days a year, in good times and bad," said Renee Bangura, a civilian coordinator at the center. "Whether or not they are deployed or at home, we can help them utilize our resources and those in their communities.
Many people at the event praised the quality of service the new Major General David F. Wherley Jr. and Mrs. Ann C. (Strine) Wherley Family Readiness Center, affectionately and pragmatically shortened to "Dave and Ann's Place," has offered service men and women and their families.
"The Guard was there for us," said Elizabeth Regan. "Despair, anger, loss…the Family Readiness Program and many members of the D.C. helped us make it through with their love and support."
The center will continue the Wherleys' legacy, providing support in their honor for many years to come.