Tag Archives: sacrifice

Paying the price of freedom

By Airman 1st Class Brittain Crolley
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Everyone comes from different walks of life. However, the people we meet, opportunities we’re given and decisions we make are all determining factors that help shape our paths along the way.

For some, life is an often exhausting uphill climb from start to finish. Even though they may struggle to persevere at times and occasionally fail to meet their desired goals, they have the inner determination to continue their journey toward success. For others, it’s a downhill ride. These individuals breeze through life and meet all of their personal objectives on the way.

Continue reading Paying the price of freedom

Uncommon Airmen

Basic trainees recite the Oath of Enlistment at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Malherek
92nd Civil Engineer Squadron

 I do not choose to be a common man.

It is my right to be uncommon–if I can.

I seek opportunity–not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me.

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed.

I refuse to sacrifice incentive for a hand-out. I prefer the challenges of life to a guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment over a stale calm of utopia.

I will not trade freedom for benefits or my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat.

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefits of my creations and to face the world boldly and say, ‘This I have done.’

Dean Alfange, an American Statesman, wrote “An American Creed” in 1950. Let me explain why this resonates with me as a senior NCO and why it should with everyone wearing our nation’s uniform.

I believe each of us wearing our nation’s uniform has chosen an uncommon life. Because we are normally surrounded by people who have also chosen this life, we sometimes forget how special we really are. I’m quickly reminded of our uncommonness while spending time with non-military family and friends here in Spokane, Wash., my hometown in Minnesota and all across our nation. My friends and family are always quick to remind me how incredible my life is. They can’t ever imagine themselves doing what we Airmen do and going where we go to do it. They stand in awe of our discipline, our love for this country and our commitment to accomplishing the mission.

Let me remind you of our uncommonness. There are just more than 316 million people in the United States. There are less than 1.5 million active duty who serve in the military and are responsible for their safety and security.

There is nothing common about raising your hand and swearing to give your life to defend this nation.

There is nothing common about leaving your spouse and kids to go off to a location where you will serve in harm’s way. Remember, the mothers and fathers of America have handed you their sons and daughters. With the faith that you will mold them, protect them and lead them. There is nothing common about that!

Monday morning, whatever your specialty is, whether you’re fixing an aircraft, manning a security post, seeing patients at the clinic, repairing an air conditioner, refueling aircraft or training aircrews how to survive in hostile environments, know this: You are not common. You seek opportunity, not security. You want to dream, to build and to succeed. You are not ordinary. You are extraordinary!

George Orwell once said, “People sleep peacefully at night knowing rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

Your friends and family, your brothers and sisters, know that you, and Airmen like you, are prepared to protect them at all costs. Have no misconceptions, we are in a serious business, and we need serious people to carry out our mission. Uncommon people! Extraordinary people!

What independence means to me

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

7/3/12 — In a few days, we, as Americans, will celebrate one of the most, if not the most, important date for the U.S. — our Independence Day.

As I figure out what I’ll be doing this Fourth of July, I also want to make sure I take the time to reflect on this most reverent of days.

What does Independence Day represent to me?

I mean, we’ve all been taught in school what led to our independence and how we achieved it, but what does it really stand for?

For me, Independence Day is more than just a day America gained its freedom. I learned from my Grandpa Randall, who loved to research our family heritage, that my family is deeply rooted in American soil.

The Randall side of the family emigrated from England on one of the first boats to the U.S. Our family is related to President Ulysses S. Grant, and one of our ancestors fought alongside President George Washington in Valley Forge. My family settled and fought for America’s independence, and for me, it’s pretty inspiring to know I have those roots.

However, that’s the beauty of being an American. It doesn’t matter if your roots are 236 years old or just a few days, we can all take pride in America and celebrate its independence.

One of the main reasons I joined the Air Force was to follow in my father’s footsteps and serve my country — to earn my place next to those who have served before.

While it’s not always fun or easy being in the military, I enjoy living the Air Force way of life. It’s truly amazing to know I’m a part of something bigger than myself.

For those times when life seems difficult, I think on my family and friends. Those are the people who get me through the hard days. Those are the faces I brought to mind while downrange recently. Those are the people whose lives I personally protect while in service to America, so that July 4th will always remain their Independence Day.

This Independence Day, I want to remember those who paid the sacrifice for America to gain her freedom. While we enjoy the company of our family and friends this Fourth of July, we should remember our nation was built on blood, sweat and tears.

Blood: The blood of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for America’s freedom, such as Army Private 1st Class James Arnold, who was killed in the Vietnam War. Though I didn’t personally know Arnold, as I reflect on the reason his name is on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., I am truly grateful and indebted to him for his sacrifice to this great country.

Sweat: The sweat of those who have worked hard to make America what it is today, such as the immigrants who toiled and labored to become citizens, or the settlers who moved west to create a life for themselves.

Tears: The tears of those who mourn for the ones lost to gain America’s freedom, such as the family of Capt. Francis Imlay, who recently paid the ultimate price during Operation Enduring Freedom. Again, I didn’t know Imlay, but I sympathize with his family and the families of the more than 6,000 military members who have died during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. I am thankful for all they gave to help keep America free.

So, enjoy the fireworks, enjoy the food, enjoy the company, but also remember to enjoy the independence and freedom we have and take the time to reflect on what those two words mean to you.

On this Independence Day, remember we have freedom at its finest, but not without a price.

Photo: The American Flag is flown over Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2011. The flag represents America’s freedom and the many military members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for U.S. independence. Americans will celebrate 236 years of freedom July 4, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick)

Air Force chaplain faces unique challenges

Chaplain (Capt.) Christian L. Williams

By Chaplain (Capt.) Christian LaPaul Williams

Arlington National Cemetery, Va

When I first heard of Arlington National Cemetery I immediately thought of honoring veterans and fallen comrades. I didn’t realize the true significance of my role in comforting their families as well. Also, I didn’t comprehend how challenging that would be.

Sure, as a chaplain I believed that I was capable of speaking with and providing comfort to the families. I’m certainly able to highlight the sacrifices of the veterans and active duty members for the just cause of freedom. I also know how to comfort the families with the knowledge that the Air Force is their extended family.

But one day I performed a service that challenged me in a way that I had never been challenged before.

I was assigned to a service that required me to give a committal for a stillborn baby boy, whose father was an active duty member. He and his wife had three other children who were 8 years old, 6 years old, and 18 months old.

I contacted the family to extend my condolences and see if there was any information that they might want me to share at the committal. The parents only had one request – to make the committal service kid friendly. I pondered how to fulfill this unique request.

I began to conduct research, to no avail. Then it dawned on me that I needed to go back to my foundation, which is my faith. I prayed and asked God to help me to minister to this family, particularly their children.

My faith in God, through my answered prayer, gave me what I needed to minister to this family. I kneeled down in front of the children at the service, and asked them to tell me their favorite character. The oldest told me “a princess.” The middle child said “Star Wars.” The youngest pointed to an iPhone with a picture of Elmo on the screen and said “Elmo.”

The two oldest children, at my urging, then gave me more specific names of their heroes as it relates to these characters.

Afterwards, I pointed to the white marble stones surrounding the gravesite and explained that the stones represented our nation’s heroes.

I told them we were there on that day to honor another hero. I asked them if they knew to whom I was referring and the 8 year old, with tears rolling down her red cheeks, said “my brother.” I agreed with her, and told them that heroes always showed up when they were needed, and that their brother was watching over them.

With my voice cracking and full of emotion I said that their brother will always remain in their hearts and whenever they needed him – their hero – would always show up. The family and I then grabbed hands and prayed as I gave the final committal of their stillborn child.

This ministry opportunity has changed my life forever. Now, I fully understand my mission. I am humbled and proud to serve on the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Photo: Chaplain (Capt.) Christian L. Williams is one of the chaplains representing the military services responsible for honoring those who are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Another major role is to comfort and assist the families of those service members buried at the nation’s largest national cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ruano)

Honoring our heroes

By Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew
Air Force District of Washington Commander

In the National Capital Region, you do not have to look far to find monuments honoring our heroic Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have paid the ultimate price in defense of our great Nation.

Maj. Gen. Darren W. McDew

This weekend, Americans will visit the memorials and cemeteries in Washington D.C. and throughout the U.S., as well as in Europe and the Pacific, to honor the hundreds of thousand fallen service members who have given their lives for our country and our freedom.

Many will remember grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who served in World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War. Many more will pay tribute to husbands, wives, sons and daughters who recently lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Think about that … memorials and military cemeteries spread across this nation and throughout the world. The VA’s National Cemetery Administration maintains approximately 3.1 million gravesites at 131 national cemeteries in 39 states and U.S. territories, as well as in 33 “soldiers’ lots” and monument sites. The American Battle Monuments Commission manages 24 overseas military cemeteries, and 25 memorials, monuments and markers to honor those who served in World War I or World War II. The overseas locations memorialize more than 218,000 Americans with nearly 125,000 gravesites, and commemorate an additional 94,000 on “Tablets of the Missing.”

In Arlington National Cemetery, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Soldiers (The Old Guard), U.S. Marine Corps Ceremonial and Guard Company Marines, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guardsmen, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard members and U.S. Coast Guard Ceremonial Honor Guard members will place more than 250,000 grave decorating flags. The flags will remain through Memorial Day.

The numbers are staggering, but they do not account for thousands more buried in state veterans’ cemeteries throughout the country.

The numbers also tell a story. These heroes hailed from every town and city in America. They came from every walk of life – young men and women straight out of high school and college to farmers, policemen, teachers, doctors, lawyers – you name it. Their ethnic backgrounds are equally as diverse. But they all had one thing in common – they served our nation during times of peace and war. They served as shields for America to keep war from reaching our front door. Unfortunately, too many lost their lives in foreign lands never to see their families again.

Today, we are faced with the grim reality that the number of fatalities since we began operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is up to more than 6,400. Every one of those losses is a loss to our nation, a loss to our military, and, most importantly, a loss to the families who grieve.

On this Memorial Day, at 3 p.m., wherever you are, I encourage you to pause and participate in the National Moment of Remembrance established by Congress. This is a moment of reflection and an opportunity to demonstrate our gratitude for our fallen warriors.

On Memorial Day and every day, let’s continue to make sure our heroes are never forgotten.

I thank you for your service and wish you a safe holiday weekend.

Remembering Arlington Airmen