ORLANDO – Being in the Armed Services, said Navy Chief Mike McKenna, isn’t just about service to your country or being on the call to duty when a crisis arises.
It’s also, he said, about being a part of a larger, extended family. All branches of the Armed Services, McKenna noted, look out for one another at all times.
As he noted of the Marine Corp, “They’re our brothers and sisters, and if one of them is injured, we’ll be there to help out.”
That was the reason McKenna joined other Naval officers on Saturday at the Navy Exchange Orlando office to take part in a Navy Car Wash, spending five hours hosing down and scrubbing clean any car that came by to see them.
“We’ve been here for about 40 minutes, and we’ve had at least 15 cars, so we’re doing well,” McKenna said around 10 a.m. on Saturday.
What they were doing was helping a fellow member of the Armed Services who is facing a financial crisis, following a devastating tragedy. The car wash was a fund-raising event to raise money for the Adalynn Byler Memorial Fund, which has been set up through the Navy Federal Credit Union’s main branch in Altamonte Springs.
It was established to help Corporal Adam Byler of Oveido, who is serving in the United States Marine Corp, and who recently lost his infant daughter Adalynn to an accidental drowning. The 16-month-old baby was rushed to a hospital, but did not survive the drowning.
Because Adam Byler is a reserve member, he’s not entitled to full military benefits, and his family now owes more than $100,000 for his child’s medical bills. His family had been in the process of getting medical coverage when this tragedy occurred. He’s been unable to fully cover the memorial service for Adalynn.
The Florida Department of American Legion generously made provisions for the funeral expenses, while a memorial fund was set up help cover the medical costs.
When the Navy learned about the child’s tragic death, and the financial problems that her father is confronting, they decided to help out, McKenna said.
“The other day we got an email from our commanding officer, letting us know a young Marine had lost a 16-month-old child in a drowning,” McKenna said. “She ended up spending roughly four days in the hospital. The hospital bills became overwhelming for him.”
That’s why they decided to hold the fund-raising, as their way of helping Byler.
“Whatever money we raise today is going to him,” McKenna said. “We’re trying to get as much as we can to help out.”
Jose Tavera of Orlando was one of the servicemen who spent Saturday washing the cars. He said he was only too happy to help a colleague.
“It’s what we do, sir,” Tavera said. “In the Navy, we practically do a lot of humanitarian work and community service work. And it feels good helping a Marine.”
McKenna agreed, saying “The Navy-Marine Corp tie is the strongest there is. Whenever we see a Marine in need, we try to help out. Everybody here is Navy, and the young man we’re helping is in the Marines, and it’s a strong team, no matter what.”
He also noted that since Thanksgiving, the Marines have been doing their own charitable work in Orlando.
“The Marines are busy doing a Toys for Tots drive, and it’s great they’re doing that,” McKenna said.
Saturday’s car wash event got a big boost, McKenna said, because the supporters were blessed with picture-perfect weather for this outdoor event.
“We scored,” he said. “We were worried about it at first, that it might rain, but it’s been great.”
The Navy Federal Credit Union is at 225 S. Westmonte Drive, Suite 1175, in Altamonte Springs. To learn more about the Adalynn Byler Memorial Fund, call 877-573-2321.
To mail a donation, send it to Navy Federal Credit Union, Attn: Adalynn Byler Memorial Fund, 5455 Lake Howell Road, Winter Park, FL 32792.
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