AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (3/7/2012) - As the Air Force and the U.S.
military continue to focus on "resiliency" as an important factor
for troops returning from deployments, one Air Force master sergeant
described a recent lesson about how current veterans can learn from
the veterans from World War II.
Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol,
from Scott AFB, described this lesson in the following words:
"Just two short years ago, I can recall an air refueling mission
I covered while flying in a KC-10 Extender over an undisclosed
location in Southwest Asia where I watched this Air Force plane
refuel more than 10 U.S. Navy F-18 fighters flying a patrol as part
of a wartime mission.
"Seeing those Navy pilots from that
vantage point was incredible. I know I'm not the only one to have
seen such a sight, but at the same time there are a precious few who
have. Though it was a sight to behold, I can also remember how it
made me think about the sacrifice all service members make during
these overseas contingency operations. It also made me think about
the things they've seen, heard and what might be running through
"Now, let me have you jet back even farther
to 70 years ago, World War II, and a different overseas operation.
In March 1942, the war was raging in the Pacific front and the U.S.
military was battling the Imperial Japanese forces on sea and on
"At the time, the U.S. was only at war for four months
and it was in that month where Japanese forces were spreading across
the Pacific, history shows. Japanese aircraft had attacked Australia
and also landed forces in the Solomon Islands to include one island
"Over the course of months of fighting in
Guadalcanal, an Allied victory was had in 1943 but at a steep cost
on both sides. Thousands of lives and many Navy and transport ships
were lost by both fighting forces.
In a 20-year-old
documentary I watched recently that highlighted the 50th anniversary
of World War II, it showed how some 'Greatest Generation' veterans
who made their way back to Guadalcanal to recall their experiences.
What they experienced, as one of them said in the documentary, was
"As I watched the documentary with veterans
from the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army and Army Air Corps
[now the Air Force], I saw how they recalled the combat they saw and
how they fondly remembered the fellow service members they fought
with who never made it back."
"Some of those veterans even
shared experiences for the documentary which they had kept to
themselves for more than 50 years. Amazing, I thought, how hard it
was for them to not only have experienced the 'pure hell' they went
through, but also how they kept some of that 'pure hell' bottled up
inside them for so long.
"At the same time, as I saw the
documentary progress, these same veterans were changing. By telling
their memories, remembering their fallen comrades and releasing
their 50-year secrets, it seemed they felt better about themselves.
It was at this point I learned a new lesson about something that
never changes -- the importance of resiliency.
resiliency? If anyone had to deal with the worst experiences people
can go through, it was those combat veterans from Guadalcanal. Some
of them discussed the nightmares they had and the troubles they had
once the war was over. However, they also said they sought the help
they needed and moved on with their lives 'like their buddy would
want them to.'
"One of the veterans also said, 'I can only
hope I've represented my buddies well in the life that I have led.
They gave their lives to save our country and I survived to tell
their stories. I think of them every day.'
"Now let me take
you back to the present. Today we have a new and great generation of
service members. Those people include those Navy fighter pilots I
saw on that air refueling mission, the mobility Airmen I was flying
with, and the Army troops and Marines on the ground those fighters
"Those World War II vets learned to grow
and thrive in the face of challenges, and they bounced back from
adversity. They proved that by remembering what they experienced
after more than five decades. We can too.
"I ask that you
remember what our veterans of today are doing for their country.
Remember to take care of them and if you are a veteran, remember how
those World War II heroes made it through their tough times.
"I'd also like to add that what I learned doesn't only apply to
veterans. In life we all come across many challenges that can affect
you whether you're associated with the military or not. The lesson
learned is to seek help when you need it and do the things you need
to do to help you become a better and happier person.
say thank you to those World War II heroes for giving me one more
reason to thank them! My resiliency will certainly be better as I
move on with my life."
By USAF Master Sgt. Scott Sturkol Follow
Mobility Command Public Affairs
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