Embrace the opportunity to serve our country

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- My grandfather served in World War II. He received his draft notice on the exact day my mother was born. He was shipped to Fort Carson, then overseas to fight in the war in France. I grew up with his stories of traveling from town to town, hiding out from the enemy in a farmer’s barn, and his missions as the communications NCO. My grandfather earned a purple heart and silver star, but was never recognized formally until I invited him to my first medal ceremony where my squadron commander took time to recognize him as part of what has been called “the Greatest Generation.” When we returned home that day, my grandmother commented, “well, it’s about time” for that generation fought back then not for the recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.

The current generation is pretty lucky. We have valuable military benefits, excellent recognition programs, strong support from our country; all which have enabled an all-volunteer military. Our military is the greatest on earth; however, we’ve gone through highs and lows throughout our history, times of great support from our country and times when our country’s support was not so strong. Most of us have been honored to be publicly thanked for our service by a stranger, not an event which our military has seen consistently in our past. We’ve gone through restructure, changes, and transformation in effort to keep our military the greatest. More recently, we’ve been through changes to our enlisted performance evaluation and promotion system, as well as increased emphasis on being a wingman, taking care of each other and ourselves, both mentally and physically, and embracing the uniqueness of each and every one of our Airmen.

We could certainly become frustrated with these changes. We could refuse to learn the new processes and systems or remain dedicated to the old demographics of our military. However, we must realize these changes are probably past due in making our military better. We’ve been trying to fit old ways into a new brand of Airmen. Today’s Airmen come to the military technically savvy, well-educated, well-spoken, fearless, and appreciative of each other for the positive attributes we bring to the fight. The changes our military is going through draw out the best of the individual citizen volunteer to build an even greater military.

My grandfather was not a volunteer. And he served in the military only two years of his 93 years of life. His military experience was his main reward and impacted him for almost his entire life. We, too, should embrace this unique opportunity we’ve been given to serve our country, defending the ideals on which the United States was founded. We’re part of a very small demographic in our country, as only 1 in 4 citizens even meet the basic qualifications for military service. Each of us has made the tough cut more than once. Each of us should embrace this opportunity to serve our country. Whether you realize it or not, you are making a positive impact every day. Thank you for volunteering to serve in the world’s greatest military, and thank you for your service.