WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Wounded Vet Run honors a hero each year, and Ret. Air Force Master Sgt. Mia Hall was the first woman to grab that honor.
Hall had a partial music scholarship for college but was concerned about student debt since she was from a large family.
Her oldest brother is a Marine, so she decided to stop by the recruiter’s office and sign up for the service. Mia enlisted in the Air Force when she was just 18.
She remembers well what it was like to be a new recruit and said her interactions with her airmen and taking care of them always meant the most to her.
“I tried to make sure I knew my airmen. Hey, I was all in their business,” Hall said.
She was also more than their mentor on base.
She served Thanksgiving meals to kids, breakfasts for charity, and even hosted airmen in her home for the holidays.
“We take care of the person, from the cradle to the grave basically.”
During times of peace, they would take care of things like birth certificates, retirements, airmen moving from base to base, and reenlistment and promotions ceremonies.
She said all of that led her to many exciting assignments.
“All of the experiences that I’ve had, it was the best decision.”
Some duties took her halfway around the world, where she said care packages were something they really looked forward to and even shared.
Other assignments kept her grounded at McConnell Air Force Base, where she helped airmen understand the Air Force and its many missions.
“We are a tanker base. We are the gas station of the sky.”
Hall often used her talents at ceremonies at home and abroad by using her vocal talent.
While deployed, Hall said she was often running lead, ensuring all knew about incoming aircraft.
Once an aircraft would land, she was often the first on board to make sure she knew exactly how many boots she was about to put on the ground.
“I had to tell my babies that I was deploying, and that was really, really, really hard,” she added.
She said Afghanistan, where they were under indirect fire and rocket attacks, was the toughest deployment.
“Any time I think about this deployment, it’s just, I try to reflect on the positives,” Hall said. “There are just so many traumatic happenings.”
She said there were also so many lives lost.
Hall already knew the true cost of war since she had been on other deployments.
She spent years in Germany, what is somewhat of a pit stop between Iraq and Afghanistan and the United States.
“This needs to be done with honor. It needs to be done professionally.”
Hall was on mortuary duty. She said she doesn’t think many realize this duty is one of our servicemen and women.
“There was like a circle of caskets,” Hall said. “You guys are going to be handling the bodies of our soldiers.”
They worked out of a huge hangar, packing the body bags full of ice.
“They told us, don’t look, don’t try to figure out who it is, don’t look at the name tag.”
Their job was to prepare them for their final journey home.
“Preserving the skin, so when the body got back to the states, so hopefully, the family can have an open-casket funeral.”
She said making arrangements to reach the family was also a duty she always did with dignity for the fallen, especially overseas.
“We have to wait until they can get someone.”
She said they always had to work quickly to get to the family because they never wanted the family to see the news on social media.
They always ensured someone was on the ground, stateside, to notify the family.
Hall distinctly remembers one day, when they opened a casket.
“There was only half of what should have been in the casket,” Hall said. “I just remember taking a step back, like, this person has to go home like this.”
She was at one time stationed at the Taliban’s Last Stand in Kandahar, and she said they worked out of a bombed-out building for a while until it was deemed unsafe.
“I was just doing my job.”
Hall gave more than two decades to service reenlisting for the final time in Luxemburg, at General Patton’s grave.
Now retired, she said you will never see some military scars, such as those caused by PTSD.
She said due to the air quality overseas that she still suffers from cluster headaches.
She said she had to check herself into a mental health facility to cope with life after war.
Hall said she had to do it for her children after giving a good portion of her life to service.
Through mental health treatment, she found art therapy and created a special tribute to female vets.
“I just have a special place in my heart for, you know, women veterans.”
Pretty fitting for the first woman to be honored by the Kansas Wounded Vet Run.
“I’m really, really honored, but I still have work to do,” Hall said. “I still have service left in me.”
Hall gathered lots of hardware and special honors while serving, including an invite to participate in a week-long multi-weapon firing competition hosted by the German Air Force.
She was also part of the McConnell Air Force Base’s version of “Chopped.” She got first place in the cooking competition.
Hall is very proud of the time she met Neil Armstrong while stationed in Germany.
As she continues to serve others and give back, it’s hard to even imagine how many lives she’s touched over the years.
She sometimes said her airmen would even call her “Mama Hall.”
Hall is once again preparing for one of her big givebacks, Turkeys for Tummies 2.
In the first year, the online fundraiser grew quickly. They were able to buy 150 turkeys to give to families in need.
Everyone who donates to the cause gets a free t-shirt, and you can find out more here.
This fundraiser grew out of the business Hall started.
Once she retired from the military, she went to Purdue University and graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition.
From there, Custom Apparel by the PHAT Nutritionist was born.
She was motivated to start her own brand and online store to ensure she created a means to continue serving.
Ten percent of every purchase made on The PHAT Nutritionist website is used to support local food pantries, soup kitchens and other shelters that offer free meals to those in need.
The PHAT Nutritionist is also looking for about 20 local businesses to help with this year’s Turkey For Tummies 2 (T4T2) Campaign.
Here are ways you can help.
- If you’re interested in helping us with our 2021 Thanksgiving fundraiser, text “HelpingHands” to 474747.
- If you simply want more info or to donate, text T4T2 to 474747.
- If you aren’t tech savvy, click here.
If you want to contact Hall, you can do so at 316-789-3108.