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FL community rallies to fix home for family of fallen airman

Adding new roof (US Air Force/Released)

Cole and Rachael Condiff bought a fixer-upper in Navarre but the U.S. Air Force staff sergeant and his wife never got a chance to work on it together.

Cole Condiff remains missing and is presumed dead from a parachute training accident off a C-130 transport aircraft over the Gulf of Mexico early in the morning on Tuesday, Nov. 5.

However, about 40 friends, family and volunteers showed up over Thanksgiving and began fixing up the house and doing yard work for Rachael and the couple’s 4- and 1-year-old daughters.

Mike West, a retired chief master sergeant who spent 30 years as a combat controller like Cole, knew he and others wanted to step up and help out.

“After all that happened, we wanted to help the widow out,” said West, the point of contact for the work. “We noticed the house needed a lot of work.”

Volunteers lent their time, materials and knowledge toward several projects, such as putting in a playground for the little girls. They fixed a rotting deck on the house. A new roof was installed. A wood fence was put up around the backyard. Others removed a bunch of yard and other debris.

Chris Buttrill, owner of Sandbox Boyz, felt he had to give back his expertise because he benefited from the community when his son was electrocuted six years ago trimming a tree. He and his crew cleaned up the yard and hauled away lots of debris.

“A lot of love was shown to our family from Navarre,” Buttrill said. “My heart goes out to him and his family. I was in the military also. We are so proud to be a part of this project. It is the least we can do for someone who has given so much for his country!”

Condiff’s accident touched off a massive search that involved the U.S. Coast Guard, the Air Force, the Army, Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and local law-enforcement and emergency response agencies. At one point, the search area encompassed 700 square miles, extending 30 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico from Destin to Pensacola.

Condiff was serving as jumpmaster for the parachute training session, and the accidental deployment of his parachute came as he was going through safety checks with other airmen aboard the aircraft.

West, who serves on the board of directors of the Combat Control Association, made sure the family felt how much the area appreciated Condiff and all its military members. The volunteers’ work included placing a flagpole in the yard in Cole’s memory.

“We didn’t want the dust to settle here,” West said. “We wanted to make the transition as smooth as possible.”

GoFundMe account for Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff and his family, wife, Rachel, and two young daughters has raised about $109,000 of its $200,000 goal. It can be found online at


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