U.S. service member delivers relief to families of shooting victims

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Corey M. Pettis
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Dec. 2, 2015; a day that will forever be ingrained in the minds of millions around the world. With 14 people killed and 22 seriously injured, the San Bernardino attack shook the lives of all involved.

While many grieved and sent condolences to the families involved, one man decided to take action. Capt. Costas Dracopoulos, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron flight safety officer, rallied the troops and organized a toy drive to give to the children of the victims.

Dracopoulos grew up in San Berardino, California and went to college in the area. Still having friends and family living there, the tragedy really struck home to him.  

"What really affected me the most was that a friend of mine was one of the victims," said Dracopoulos. "He left behind six children, so it was a tough time for his family."

Not only were his children affected, but other families as well. Dracopoulos decided he would take responsibility to help in any way possible.

"I was on leave in Kyoto when I first found out, I saw it on the news," said Drocopoulos. "It hit even deeper when I got on Facebook and saw messages that one of my friends was a victim, so I thought I should do something about it."

Dracopoulos used his Air Force resources such as the chaplain and the Red Cross to find the best course of action. After talking to the San Bernardino's mayor's office, he found out how to help.

"I put a message out to the squadron and they were more than happy to give out toys in less than a week and ship them out a few days later," Dracopoulos said. 

The 961st AACS answered the call and in less than a week gathered more than 50 toys. Having connections still in the San Bernardino's Police Department and Mayor's office, Dracopoulos ensured the relief was delivered to those in need.

Carey Davis, San Bernardino mayor, sent a heart-felt thank you letter back to the 961st.

"I am proud of the united manner by which our nation has responded to the tragic events that forever impacted several lives," said Davis. "Your willing and generous response to the crisis and your selflessness are greatly appreciated. Thank you for going out of your way and facilitating the process between my staff and your squadron."

Anything can help, and that showed by the way Dracopoulos stepped up to support not only his friends and family, but all others affected as well. 

"It shows the compassion he has for his friends and family," said Lt. Col. Kyle Anderson, 961st AACS commander. "It also shows how tight of a family we have here in the squadron, that they are willing to help his effort to make it a reality."

The quick response showed by Dracopoulos and all of the members of the squadron showcases their comradery, willingness and compassion to help.

"He is an amazing warrior, said Anderson. "He just got back from a deployment, the tragedy occurred during his rest and relaxation time so it shows a lot when he's out doing something else away from the squadron and he has the idea and ideals to push forward and take care of the folks that the tragedy affected."

Anderson emphasized how proud he is of the members of his squadron.

"I'm ecstatic that our 961st family supported him and it also bodes well for the squadron for one of our own to put on an event like that," said Anderson. "We live in a small world and it shows how a tragedy state-side can affect service members over here."

It is the actions of the brave, whether big or small, that can really affect those close to the tragedy.

"San Bernardino is fortunate to have the support of individuals like you [Drocopolous] and your base," said Davis. "Once again, please accept my sincere and personal thanks. Your generosity and your willingness to give have significantly impacted the morale of our staff and community."