All posts by ktomlin

Honoring my father


U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Dick

By Staff Sgt Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

As it’s Father’s Day, I wanted to take the time to write about my father and how I honored him. I’ve pretty much known nothing but the military my whole life.

I was born into this world in Georgia at a U.S. Army medical facility. From the time I was 8 months old, I’ve been moving around.

As a little girl, I remember watching my dad put on his Army uniform and go to work. Several times, we took him dinner when he had to work overnight. I remember going to several Christmas parties at his work, and they always had gifts for the kids.

I grew up on his Meals-Ready-to-Eat, and loved chewing the gum and eating the dessert out of it.

Did you know military gear has a distinct smell to it? I do! Growing up around that smell has sort of made the military a “comfort zone” for me. Whenever I walk into a military issue shop and smell the military gear, it takes me back to being a kid again, and I’m instantly wrapped up in warmth – the same goes for watching football on Sundays.

My father was gone a lot – whether out in the field or on temporary duty to Australia or other locations. Despite that, he was always able to make it to every basketball, softball, soccer and volleyball game I had – home or away.

When he was in Korea my senior year of high school, he came back on his mid-tour during Christmas and worked it so he could be there for my graduation in May.

Then-U.S. Army Private 1st Class Michael Dick and Cynthia Dick When I had major surgery in 2009, he took short-notice vacation from his job in the postal service to come over to Germany and take care of me. He showed us that family mattered to him; that we were a top priority.

My father has always been there for us – even during trying times! He’s never been afraid to show us or tell us that he loves us.

Through his 20 years of military service to the U.S., he showed us how to work hard and be dedicated– he joined in 1982 and retired in 2002. Throughout my life, the military has been a constant – it’s also one of the reasons I feel a continuous need to move after just a couple years in one spot.

Watching the passion my dad had for serving his country sparked the same passion in me. That’s why in January 2006, I joined the U.S. Air Force. While my dad would have loved if I joined the Army, I figured since the Air Force used to be part of the Army, I’d still be “keeping it in the family.”

Among the many reasons I joined, I wanted to start a tradition of military legacy in our family. I wanted to honor my father by having one of his children join the military – it’s only me and my sister. I wanted to have pride in what I was doing in my life.

To me, my father is the greatest man in the world – my military superhero. We learned valuable lessons from him and my mother that I hope to pass on one day to any children I may have. So, Michael Dick, Happy Father’s Day from a daughter who thinks you mean the world to her!

Photos: (Top) Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Dick waits for the air show to begin in August 2008, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Dick served in the Army for 20 years, retiring in 2002. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)
(Bottom) Then-U.S. Army Private 1st Class Michael Dick and Cynthia Dick take a couples photo while Michael is on Christmas leave from Army basic training in December 1982. Michael joined the Army in 1982 and served until 2002, completing 20 years of military service. (Courtesy photo)

Week in Photos, June 15, 2012

A C-130H Hercules

By Airman 1st Class Krystal Tomlin

Here it is — Air Force Week in Photos to lead you into a wonderful Air Force weekend!!!

Photo: A U.S. Air Force C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft assigned to the Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth trains to evade ground attack during a low-altitude combat support training mission at Yankee Range near Kingsville, Texas, May 30, 2012. (National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano)

Importance of ‘Flag Day’


 Airmen preform a flag raisingBy Retired Chief Master Sgt. Scott Hubbartt
51st Fighter Wing

Each year, Americans can enjoy four special days set aside specifically to honor our veterans and comrades in arms. Sadly, too many of us often overlook these opportunities to pay our respect and recognize the sacrifice and service of these individuals. These four days are intended to, in some small way, express the sentiments of a grateful nation. So what does it say of us when we forget, overlook, or simply brush aside the opportunity to honor the best among us?

I understand that today our lives are more complicated and busier than ever. We have so much going on in our lives these days; school getting out, visiting relatives, graduations, and any number of other competing priorities. I hope each of us were able to honor all our heroes last November on Veteran’s Day. But what about the other days?

It’s perhaps easy to seek and find forgiveness for not making it out to a veteran’s cemetery last Memorial Day Monday. After all, who of us is not grateful for a day off or for a chance to sleep in, fire up the grill, catch a new summer blockbuster, and recharge our batteries?

Beginning during the Civil War, and originally called Decoration Day, this special day, now called Memorial Day, was set aside to recognize the nation’s war dead by decorating their graves. In nearly every community in America you can find, in small and large cemeteries, the final resting place of our veterans. Additionally there are over 120 national cemeteries as well as at least 80 state and territorial veteran’s cemeteries. Somewhere near each of us rests a veteran hero who answered the call and paid the ultimate price. So, I ask you, how difficult is it really to pack up the kids and drive out to the local cemetery and pay our respect? Perhaps you did just that last Monday, and if you did I thank you. If not, do so soon. Our fallen brethren won’t mind a bit if you visit their marker any day of the year.

And what about Armed Forces Day? Who even knows what that is all about anyway? In 1950, President Harry S. Truman spearheaded efforts to set aside a single holiday when Americans could gather and collectively thank our military personnel for their service to the nation. Okay. I’ll grant that there is a generous outpouring of support and gratitude from most Americans that range from hanging yellow ribbons to bumper stickers and welcome home parades for returning troops. I understand.

Then there is that fourth special day, June 14th, set aside to honor another veteran – a faithful comrade who has accompanied each of us – every service member before us, to battlefields and stations in virtually every corner of the globe. For more than two centuries this veteran has always been there with us – always faithful and this vet is always ready for a parade. Our friend was there out at the cemetery last Monday when we were too busy. Not to fret, he was present and accounted for standing tall on Armed Forces Day as well. In fact our friend is always there, and in fact, often overlooked and taken for granted.

Of course I am speaking of Old Glory, our flag. Always faithful and decked out in full glorious parade dress uniform! Our friend has guided and comforted countless numbers of our comrades in arms through the best and the worst of times. No doubt each of us can recall an example of our friend being present which might evoke strong emotions in each of us – perhaps in a parade, at a funeral for a loved one, on the battlefield, on the tail of a plane, or over an embassy in a foreign land. Our friend is always there and loves to be on parade! So, I ask you, on June 14, on Flag Day, hoist Old Glory up, salute, and give our good friend the respect and recognition he deserves.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Royval, left, Master Sgt. Vince Muskiet and Master Sgt. Jeff Thornsberry raise the U.S. flag Feb. 27, 2012, at the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., while Master Sgt. James Mulcahey salutes. Even if the national anthem isn’t played, Airmen must stop and salute if they see this ceremony occurring on base and drivers must pull over and stop until it’s completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Wingmen enable Airman’s incredible recovery


Senior Airman Jayson Phillips works with his physical trainer
By Chief Master Sgt. M. Shane Flint
543rd ISR Group

Resiliency, wingman, core values — these are terms we use every day to describe and define us as Airmen. Every day, I come to work and see examples of Airmen who are resilient, Airmen who take care of their fellow Airmen, Airmen who live and operate by our core values.

On Sept. 19, 2011, four Airmen from the 543rd Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Group here took action and were perfect examples of why we use the words above in describing and defining “Airman.” Those actions likely saved the life of a fellow Airman.

September 18 was a regular day for Senior Airman Jayson Phillips. He ran 14 miles then made his weekly call to his younger brother in Dallas to rub in how fast his run time was. After his call, it was time to prepare for the work week and get some quality sleep.

The following day began normally for one of Phillips’ supervisors, Tech. Sgt. Erica Vasquez, until one of her subordinates, Staff Sgt. Tyler George, relayed that Phillips had not shown up for work. Vasquez and George knew it was not at all like Phillips to be late.

As soon as Senior Airman John Hill heard Phillips was late, he knew something was wrong. It wasn’t like his best friend not to call. When they could not make contact by phone, Hill immediately volunteered to go to Phillips’ home with George. When George and Hill arrived at the apartment they found Phillips’ vehicle parked in front.

He should be home.

They started knocking on the door, but there was no response. Now, fearing the worst for their friend and wingman, these Airmen rushed to the apartment manager’s office and convinced him to open the door for them. Once inside, their fears were confirmed: Phillips lay collapsed on his bed, initially unresponsive to their pleas.

George and Hill immediately put their self-aid and buddy-care training to the test. Once they established Phillips was breathing, they fought to get him conscious and called 911. By the time responding medical professionals were on the scene, they had Phillips semi-conscious. En route to the hospital, George assisted in keeping Phillips responsive while Hill phoned Vasquez and squadron leaders with reports.

Once at the hospital, medical professionals stabilized Phillips, getting him into the intensive care unit. George and Hill were still engaged. Because of his close friendship, Hill contacted Phillips’ family, whom he knew, with the news. He kept in constant touch with them and didn’t leave his friend’s side as the Phillips family drove the few hours from their home to San Antonio. Once the family arrived, George, Hill and squadron and site leaders maintained a 24-hour presence with the Phillips family to ensure they had access to housing, base facilities and a steady flow of home-cooked meals.

Through testing, doctors concluded this young healthy Airman had suffered a severe stroke.

I visited Phillips and his family in the midst of the initial turmoil. When Col. David Foglesong, 543d ISR Group commander, and I arrived, Hill was right there with the Phillips family offering his support — a solid wingman.

What I had not prepared myself for was seeing Phillips’ condition. He was now a 25-year-old who could barely move his hands, could not talk, with one side of his body paralyzed from the stroke.

He was conscious for only a minute or two while we were in the room. My heart sank to see such a vibrant, bright, American Airman stricken so severely. I just hoped that he could recover enough to get part of his functionality back. As he struggled just to remain awake that day, I didn’t take into consideration Phillips’ resiliency and his ability and determination to come back to full strength.

Three weeks went by. I next saw a different Phillips. As before, I wasn’t prepared for what I would see. He sat upright, talking and doing exercises to strengthen his arms. He was slowly moving his formerly paralyzed side.

A month after that, he was walking. Doctors were amazed at his recovery.

On my next visit, he had moved to the nearby Fisher House. To my amazement, he was walking with a cane and his speech was completely back. I told him, “We are going on a run soon.”

Without blinking an eye Phillips replied, “I will be running by spring.”

Phillips continued an amazing recovery. The staff of the treatment facility who helped with his initial recovery were so impressed with his dedication and determination they recognized him with their second annual Resilient Warrior Award. As I sat at the ceremony, I fought tears when he walked to receive his award, less than five months after suffering a severe stroke.

After the ceremony, I shook Phillips’ hand. Standing beside him were George, Hill and Vasquez, his wingmen. The Airmen who were not only most likely responsible for saving his life, but also the Airman who stayed there for Phillips and his family through his recovery. They weren’t there because they had to be. They were there for this resilient Airman because of their commitment to their core values. They made me proud of — and to be — an American Airman.