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Airman looks out for ‘undercats’

Zachary rescued cats for five years, finding them homes in the Sumter community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, holds a rescue kitten at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 30, 2019. Zachary rescued cats for five years, finding them homes in the Sumter community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, plays with a kitten at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 30, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, plays with a kitten at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 30, 2019. Zachary rescued cats and worked with local community members to assist and provide homes for homeless kittens for the last five years of her Air Force career. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer)

Huxley, a rescue kitten belonging to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, pauses playtime at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 30, 2019

Huxley, a rescue kitten belonging to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, pauses playtime at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, June 30, 2019. Huxley was one of hundreds of kittens Zachary rescued in partnership with the Windy Ridge Rescue organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

A woman juggles between carrying two cat kennels and opening a car door as she hears a familiar cry. Moments later her car is zooming away with two kitties, healthy and ready for new homes, and one, sick and hungry, unaware of how its destiny has starkly changed.

Tech. Sgt. Bethany Zachary, 609th Air Communications Squadron cyber management technician, has fostered cats for five years, finding them homes in the Sumter community.

“I think it’s most rewarding for me to just be helpful in general, whether its customer service, working in communications…if somebody has a problem and I know how to fix it, that is rewarding for me,” said Zachary. “With cats and kittens, helping them to rehabilitate, to heal and get homes, absolutely that is rewarding - being a good supervisor - those are the things that are rewarding to me.”

With a tear in her eye, Zachary looked out the window and said she felt better knowing she could make a difference and help the underdog get a chance at a healthy life. She works diligently every weekend and evening, finding time after work to go to the vet and often staying up during the evenings, taking shifts with her wife to ensure kitties in need of 24-hour care are accommodated.

“I understand that, being in the Air Force, I only have so many days off and I could move duty stations anytime, so the worry is if I can really take this on, but when I see a kitten without help I wonder, ‘How can I not?’” said Zachary.

Zachary’s giving spirit extends to the work place as well. On top of finding kittens new homes and vet appointments, she still has time to help Airmen and focus on her own career.

“I’m very much the kind of person who cares and is a protector,” said Zachary. “I’m the concerned supervisor and friend. I can’t see someone who is reaching out or who needs help and turn away.”

Zachary continued to say military members should consider working with a local rescue to help the community.

She also encourages her Airmen to volunteer so they have the emotional connection and the satisfaction she feels in life when she hands a healthy kitty over to its new home.

Debbie Becchetti, Windy Ridge Rescue cat director, said Zachary is a key member of the team who helps out by trying to get kitties adopted every weekend and, if they are not, taking them home and trying to find homes herself.

“She’s getting ready to deploy and we finally have open slots, so, while we’ll miss her dearly, we need to let her focus on her military missions,” said Bechetti. “She’s been great to work with and I hope she’ll foster again when she returns from her deployment.”

Zachary said she started fostering cats through her wife and the rewarding feeling and sense of accomplishment kept her fostering between every deployment and temporary duty assignment.

“My wife loves rooting for the underdog and I think animals are the ultimate underdog. I’ve thought a lot about why I continue to do it and I think it’s because whatever you invest in animals, you get back tenfold,” said Zachary. “They don’t disappoint you. Anything you give to them they’re going to be able to give back so much more.”