Sharing pride in our nation

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Tech. Sgt. Chris Orbits chats with residents Oct. 16, 2009, during a visit to the U.S. Soldier's and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C. Sergeant Orbits made the visit with the National Capital Region Joint Enlisted Council. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Post by Tech. Sgt. Phyllis Hanson, Air Force Public Affairs Agency

We 23.2 million living U.S. veterans make up a unique group. We come from all walks of life. We are young, old or somewhere in between. Whether we’re a man or woman makes no matter.  We are Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guard and Marines. Our boots march to a different beat — freedom’s beat. We hold proud traditions. We are powerful. We are one.

Veterans Day is today–the one federal holiday in which Americans can celebrate the living Armed Forces and what we stand for, what we fight for and what we sacrifice our lives for — America’s freedom. 

So, in turn I think that we, the veterans, owe those who support us a huge thank you back. You send us packages when we’re deployed. And I can tell you, that I well with pride whenever a perfect stranger comes up to me and says, “Thank you,”  or even every now and again buys me lunch. You believe in us. You mourn for us. You cheer for us when we return home from war. You help our families cope. Thank you America for without your support we couldn’t do what we do.

I also would be remiss to not thank veterans, especially those who are retired. Now that I live in the D.C. area, I get to visit many a fine veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home, also known as the U.S. Soldiers and Airmen’s Home. It gives me great joy to see their smiles and listen to the real-life stories of those men and women who served during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Despite ages and generations that separate us, we understand each other. It makes me feel so proud to continue to carry freedom’s torch for them.

Another way a person can honor veterans is through a great program called Honor Flight. This program enables veterans a chance to come to our nation’s capital to see the war memorials. Our World War II vets are given top priority, but it is also for those who served in other wars, too. The best part is that they are greeted by hundreds of cheering fans when they arrive. The website also provides arrival information and dates for upcoming visitors if you’d like to be a part of a welcome team.

Not a year goes by where our servicemembers aren’t somewhere in the world helping to solve conflicts. And while some might think that Veterans Day is yet another way for retailers to capitalize on a federal holiday, I thank you for remembering that it means so much more.

There are all sorts of way to give a thanks to a veteran any day. To learn more about veterans, go to the “Veterans History Countdown” on the VA Web site. You can also get lots of great facts on their FAQ page.

Year of the Air Force Family–Deployed perspective

Over the past week, in recognition of Year of the Air Force Family, we’ve been bringing you a number of different perspectives about military life and how it relates to our active duty Airmen and their families. Today’s post comes to us from SMSgt. Rex Temple, who writes a blog called Afghanistan: My Last Tour. SMSgt Temple has been writing about his missions and deployed life via his blog and on Twitter (follow @afghanistanlast). In his post below, he talks about how much the Air Force Family has meant to him and his wife.

SMSgt Rex Temple. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

SMSgt Rex Temple. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

While I am on the other side of the world embedded with the Afghan National Army and trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, on the other side of the world is a special person who faces different challenges and performs a daily juggling act.  This person is none other than my loving wife.  Prior to us meeting, she was an Emmy award-winning journalist who often produced stories about military families and the stressors of deployment.  At that time, she really didn’t understand the concept of the military family but she would air the warm-hearted stories anyhow.  Now that we are married, I have introduced her to my Air Force family and with my yearlong deployment she is experiencing first-hand what she couldn’t truly appreciate when she first interviewed those resilient military spouses and children.

Overnight, she became the accountant, the cook, the mechanic, the house cleaner, the handyman and the caregiver to our furry children Charlie and Sammy.  Prior to this deployment we shared these responsibilities, but now she has to perform a circus act and balance this with a fulltime job too.  Often the news media or I will depict in my blog www.Afghanistanmylasttour.com the sacrifices military members make while being deployed and the luxuries we long to have.  But the families we leave behind make tremendous sacrifices too and my wife is no different.

It’s not just deployments, but frequent PCS moves, moving household goods, changing spouse’s jobs, uprooting children and

SMSGt Temple and wife Liisa. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

SMSGt Temple and wife Liisa. Source: http://afghanistanmylasttour.com/

enrolling them in new schools and shipping family pets can be disruptive to military family’s lives.  Fortunately the Air Force recognizes the sacrifices military families make and provides a supporting foundation and a plethora of tools and resources to help lessen the pain.  The Airman and Family Readiness Center is like Grand Central Station and provides an array of services beneficial to the Airman and family members.  The Fitness Center is a great place to shed some pounds or maintain a healthy physique.  The Education Center is invaluable especially since the 9/11 GI Bill has been enacted.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great savings when we shop at AAFES and commissary facilities.  Lastly, my favorite is traveling Space-Available to Alaska, Hawaii or foreign countries and staying at FAM camps and lodges to indulge myself during a vacation.  At MacDill AFB, I can even rent a boat and get away from reality while fishing for shark, snapper, and grouper.  These are only a handful of resources the Air Force offers to its members and their families.

Despite being in a combat zone in Afghanistan, my spouse is free to enjoy all of the activities I mentioned above without me.  My Air Force family has embraced her with both arms.  Should something tragic happen to me, I have an inner peace knowing my Air Force family will always be there for my wife.

Celebrating the Air Force Family

Year of the Air Force Family Week wrapped up last week, but the Year of the Air Force Family events will be ongoing until summer of 2010. To further recognize the Air Force family we’ve got a couple of additional posts to present this week.

Here is a link to a blog post from Robin Paoli, a.k.a. one of the people who runs @MilitaryTweets on Twitter. Robin has been a big supporter of the military branches and has taken a lot of time to talk to people involved in the military and other branches of the government. She is helping spread the word and provide details about the work that people are doing to share their story, particularly with social media.

A child’s first steps caught on camera for a deployed parent, a son in Afghanistan making a comic video poking gentle fun at his father’s birthday, a dad in Iraq telling his son “I love you”… we’ve been privileged to share these special moments and many more while helping manage the TroopTube video web site.

In the blog post Robin talks to Capt. Chris Sukach, Chief of Emerging Technology for the Air Force Public Affairs Agency about the importance of connecting families and how new media tools are helping enable that goal. So while you’re thinking of our service members, both deployed and on the home front, remember the families as well and think about the sacrifices they’ve made.

My experiences at Africa Endeavor 2009

Below is a post from Staff Sgt. Christina Zamora, 17th Air Force Communications, about her experiences during Africa Endeavor 2009.

17th

My experiences at Africa Endeavor 2009

By Staff Sgt. Christina Zamora

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a communications exercise in Gabon, Africa. The main goals were to enhance interoperability between the 25 African nations in attendance, while fostering friendships with the hopes of creating lasting working relationships.

Upon arrival at the site, I admit I had no idea what to expect. Being relatively new to the communications infrastructure field, I was unsure how I was going to be able to assist. Luckily, I quickly discovered that I was in the presence of some very talented men and women. I learned that within the first four days of the exercise, we had already surpassed the major accomplishments of the previous year’s exercise. To see the Data Chief’s face as he explained how proud he was of the fact that they had successfully configured a routing protocol was thrilling for me. Not only were these guys smart, they were hungry to move forward. With the major goals of the exercise already accomplished, the data chief and the lead nations decided to set up three additional servers to include DNS, web access and mail. This was a huge personal achievement and one that I was excited to be a part of. We were working successfully with our African partners!

This was my first time to Africa and I really couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable experience. I met many interesting individuals from many different countries. U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Zamora, from 17th Air ForceEach delegation was extremely proud of their country and was very welcoming. Additionally, I was invited to visit with some of my new friends in their countries so that I could experience the beauty first hand! It was refreshing to be around so many genuinely friendly people.

I will always look upon my trip to Africa with great fondness because of the goals we accomplished and the friends that I made. I think my favorite memories will be of the soccer games we played.

Through extreme heat, the teams played hard and had a great time together. It was inspiring to see everyone come together throughout the event, on and off the field. I am so very glad that I’ll be working with 17th Air Force and U.S. Africa Command for the next four years, as it means I’ll have the opportunity to return to Africa and continue fostering relationships with these great people.

Photo: 17th Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Zamora verifies a functioning data system with other partner nations participants in Exercise Africa Endeavor in Gabon Oct. 2.

Thoughts on Year of the Air Force Family from Air Force Wife

spousebuzzAs you’ve been reading here on Air Force Live, this week is Year of the Air Force Family Week. We asked some other folks from the blogosphere to contribute their thoughts on what it means to be part of the Air Force Family. Today we have a post to share from Ruthie, a.k.a. Air Force Wife, on SpouseBUZZ. If you’re not familiar with SpouseBUZZ, it is a blog site that is written by spouses of members of all branches of the military. Full description: “SpouseBUZZ is a virtual Spouse Support Group, a place where you can instantly connect with thousands of other milspouses. Here, we celebrate and embrace the tie that binds us all – military service.”

Below is an excerpt from Air Force Wife. Please click here for the full story. And check out SpouseBUZZ if you want to hear from and interact with people who share the same experiences as you.

One thing I can tell you right off the bat is that when Air Force Guy left the Army to join the Air Force long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I thought I was headed for an era of peaches and cream and mint juleps on a sun shaded porch.  No more long duties!  No more field exercises that seem to get extended every single time!
In our case, that’s not exactly what happened.