Summer is winding down in the Inland Northwest, but there's still time to get away and visit local lakes and rivers. For airmen serving at Fairchild, getting away for some rest and relaxation is even more important. Thanks to a generous donation decades ago, they have a special place to get away from it all.
Fairchild airmen spend most of their time either on base or in the air, refueling planes around the world. When they get away, they often travel just 13 miles south of the base to a place called Clear Lake.
In 1967, a private citizen gifted Clear Lake to the Spokane Chamber of Commerce. It was then donated to Fairchild. Now, the area is packed on sunny days with airmen and their families, as well as civilian employees from Fairchild and retired service members from the community.
"They train hard, they work hard, they fuel the fight," said Lt. Col. Randy Bailey. "We have high deployments, high ops tempo. They need some time to unwind, spend with their families and have a little fun."
Lt. Colonel Scott Bryant spent several days with his family at Clear Lake this summer, bonding with his children Josh and Emily. Two weeks before, he was in Afghanistan. Now, he's camping, boating and fishing with the family that waited anxiously for his return.
"We're going to make it two night out," Lt. Bryant said. "We had so much fun, we have s'mores last night."
Weekdays are busy; weekends are packed. Last year, 50,000 visitors passed through the gates at Clear Lake. They fish, rent cabins, even come up for movie nights under the stars and squadron picnics.
"We're blessed to have this as a gift," said Lt. Col. Bailey. "It's kind of a crowned jewel of our Morale, Welfare and Recreation program. The families use it a lot, the units come out together and bring their families."
Families like the Bryants savor these moments, knowing the next deployment could be right around the corner.