Tag Archives: culture

Opinion: A death while serving will never be senseless

by Air Force Staff Sgt. William Banton
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs

Air Force bids farewell to Combat Talon I
Hollywood has always had a “hot-or-cold” relationship with the U.S. military, sometimes praising our efforts, like the post-World War II-era movies, and sometimes questioning our actions, as in many Vietnam-era movies.

Now it is the current generation of veterans and service members who face the public scrutiny of Hollywood’s media machine. The products of this industry have already started to define the history of today’s veterans.

The most recent example of the media coverage of service members’ actions, the theatrical version of the book “Lone Survivor” ( a film I have not yet seen), brings to light the heroism and sacrifice of U.S. service members.

I recently watched an interview from a reputable news source in which the reporter used the words “senseless death” in highlighting the actions of the modern-day warriors depicted in this film — the type of people I’ve been honored to work with.

While watching this interview, I found myself amazed at the impressions many Americans have regarding the U.S. military and the sacrifices made to protect this country.
To be blunt, some people don’t get it.

I’ve spent seven years, five months and nine days in the military. Four years were devoted to honoring the dead as member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and two years as a public affairs specialist for the 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. I have had the privilege to spend my career writing about or honoring the sacrifices of true American heroes.

While I am in no way an expert on every service member and why they do what they do, I feel the need to spell something out: while these sacrifices are tragic, they will never be senseless.

It’s not about glory, sacrifice or honor, though many noble people have achieved all three. Many great men and women will tell you this is just a job and they need the paycheck. I’ve had those days too.

It doesn’t matter if they are stellar service members, are still trying to find their niche, or if they signed up for the benefits or for the education. The men and women of the armed services are less than one percent — of more than 300 million citizens – who have sworn to defend this country with their lives.

This is a country people die trying to enter — just for the slim chance of having a better life. This is a country in which countless numbers have died to uphold the ideals of freedom its founding fathers established more than 200 years ago.

No matter what you think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the current state of this country, a death in the service of others — when so few are willing to step up — will never be senseless.

During my career as ceremonial guardsman I preformed hundreds of funerals for veterans and service members. Some of the people were more famous than others, like Chief of Staff of the Air Force Lew Allen Jr., or the first Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, Paul W. Airey. Some of the funerals were more memorable then others, like the young child at his parent’s funeral who was clearly oblivious to what this loss meant. Or the man who was the only person at his father’s funeral who was so grateful for the service we provided that he insisted on personally shaking everyone’s hand.

Of all the funerals I served at, the ones that stand out the most were repatriation ceremonies.

These funerals involved remains which had been missing, in some cases, 30 to 40 years. These funerals always stand out to me because I was able to see the faces of families who had lived their whole lives without their loved ones, and how much that sacrifice affected their lives.

I was able to look into the eyes of a wife who finally received closure after years of uncertainty. In those moments, I was able to truly understand how meaningful that person’s life was to her. For me, that is not senseless.

Hollywood, for better or worse, will always be there to dramatize the actions of great people. Their doing so is another way of ensuring their deaths will never be senseless– for the only senseless death in the service of the country is one which is forgotten.

Now it’s your turn. What are your thoughts?

Diversity makes a stronger Air Force, Sept. 7, 2012

Diversity strengthens military

By Col. Rodney Bryan
927th Mission Support Group commander

The Air Force defines diversity as a composite of individual characteristics, experiences, and abilities, consistent with the core values and mission. Diversity includes, but is not limited to, personal experiences, geographic background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical or spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender.

One of the strengths of our nation and the Air Force is this diversity, which includes and involves all of us. In Executive Order 13583, President Obama stated, “Our nation derives strength from the diversity of its population and from its commitment to equal opportunity for all. We are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges.”

As commander of a mission support group, I fully appreciate the importance of diversity. The nature of the various activities and operations directed and controlled by mission support groups worldwide make them the most diverse group within Air Force wings. Functions typically include personnel, logistics planning and readiness, civil engineering, security forces, communications and services. These disciplines are brought together under the mission support group to provide complete and responsive support to installations and the Air Force mission.

Diversity is vital to the successful accomplishment of the Air Force mission. The Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stated, “Across the service, we represent a broad range of diverse missions, family situations, ethnicities, faiths, races and educational backgrounds. Yet together, this rich tapestry forms the world’s finest Air Force, drawn from the best talent that America has to offer.”

The Air Force must attract, recruit, develop, mentor, and retain the best possible talent to stay effective. Embracing each Airman’s strengths, perspective, and capabilities will help build and sustain a diverse culture that strengthens our service. To gain the most from diversity, Airmen must understand they are valued and have the opportunity to reach their full potential while contributing to the Air Force mission.

Air Force capabilities and war-fighting skills are enhanced by diversity among its personnel. Diversity provides the total force a collection of strengths, perspectives and capabilities that transcend individual contributions. Personnel who work in diverse environments learn to make the most of and combine individual strengths, abilities and perspectives for the good of the mission.

Lastly, diversity is a leadership issue. We who are leaders must be committed to building an Air Force reflects the best of our nation. In addition, we must create an environment that promotes mutual respect and trust while promoting the development and mentorship of Airmen with different backgrounds and perspectives. The message must be effectively communicated that diversity is integral to Air Force core values and enhances mission readiness.

Photo: The strength of the military is improved by the diverse backgrounds of those who make up the organization, a senior National Guard officer said May 3, 2010.