Elementarily Speaking, Military Members Are Heroes
(July 1, 2010)
|MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. (6/29/2010 - AFNS) -- As a
lowly 2nd lieutenant, I don't receive many speaking
And by not many, I mean none.
The fact is, most folks would rather hear the introspective
thoughts of a colonel, a general or a senior NCO as opposed
to the incoherent ramblings of a butter bar. I completely
understand that sentiment. Heck, I really wouldn't want to
listen to myself, either.
However, last week when I was presented with an invitation
to speak about my career in the Air Force Reserve, I jumped
at the chance. At last, I finally had my opportunity to be
just like the senior officers and enlisted members I
admired. This was my chance to stand before an audience and
captivate them with my eloquence as I gave a powerful,
articulate speech about the Air Force, my job and
specifically, what I do.
This is what all those practice briefings at Officer
Training School were about! This is what I was trained for!
This is what public affairs officers do! Needless to say, I
My venue? Liberty Elementary School's 2010 Career Day.
My audience? A classroom full of first through sixth
Okay, so it wasn't exactly addressing the Joint Chiefs of
Staff, but I was still stoked. Finally, someone wanted to
hear what the LT had to say!
I was determined to give a first-rate presentation. I spent
hours working on a slideshow presentation explaining the
different types of jobs in the Air Force. I prepared
diagrams that showed how the military can help pay for
college. I researched career fields and made notes about the
points about my specific job I wanted to cover. By the time
Career Day rolled around, I was ready for anything.
Well ... anything except for questions conjured up in the
inquiring minds of seven-year olds.
My preparations paid off and the presentation went without a
hitch. The students were quiet and extremely respectful as I
confidently delivered what I considered to be a top-notch
informative lecture. After I finished, I opened the floor
In my brief military career, I have sat stone-faced and
unflinching before review boards. I have received advanced
training on how to respond to media queries and surprise
questions on any scenario imaginable. I have dealt with
hard-hitting journalists and answered controversial
questions without batting an eye. I have conducted more
interviews than I can count.
Those experiences were nothing compared to the grilling I
received at the hands of a classroom of elementary school
A few excerpts:
Student: "Didn't you drop a nuclear bomb in World War II?"
Me: "Well ... Uhhhh .... not me specifically, no ..."
Student: "How many nuclear bombs are at your base?"
Me: "Oh, geez .... um, I can neither confirm nor deny ..."
Student: "What can you tell me about Area 51?"
Me: "Only what I've seen on 'The X-Files' ..."
Student: "What's the most fun thing you've ever done
Me: "Uhhh ... well, I once got a free upgrade to first class
Student: "Does your boss yell at you every morning to get
you out of bed?"
Me: "If by 'boss' you mean mood ..."
And so it went, questions from the kids about anything and
everything concerning war, aircraft or the military they had
ever heard or seen on video games, on TV or in a movie. I
started to become discouraged. I mean, yeah, they were kids,
but weren't they interested in what I do? Didn't they grasp
the importance of my job in the military? Don't they
understand that it's not all war, we aren't all fighter
pilots and that we all have different jobs and different
ways of contributing to the overall mission?
Then, the coolest thing happened.
As the class period came to a close and the students
prepared to file out of the room, each made an effort to
come by, shake my hand, give me a high-five or bump
knuckles. They smiled at me, looking at me like I was the
greatest thing ever. For a brief second, I wondered what I
had done or said that was so great to get this type of
And that's when it hit me.
It's not about me, or what I said to the students. It's not
about my job, or about any of our individual jobs. It's
about the service, the sacrifice and the history that our
jobs in the military represent.
See, the kids weren't impressed with me, my job in the Air
Force Reserve, or my own personal experiences. What they
were impressed with, what they did understand, is the
uniform I was wearing, or, more specifically, what that
uniform stood for. They may not understand the intricacies
of the different career fields in the military or how the
real Air Force isn't quite like a movie.
But they do understand the significance of what thousands of
men and women in uniform do each day. They understand that
those who serve provide an incredible service to our
country; they protect it, they keep it safe and they keep it
free. They understand that the military, and the history
behind it, deserves respect and gratitude.
Shaking my hand was their way of saying thank you, not to
me, but to all service members. And, it was a genuine
reflection of the appreciation and admiration the citizens
of this nation have for all men and women in uniform.
I'm sure I'll have other speaking opportunities throughout
my career. No doubt I'll someday stand before an audience
that will be impressed with statistics and facts, an
audience that will be interested in my fancy, informative
slides. But I will never forget my first public speaking
engagement to a small group of children, nor will I forget
their genuine, innocent display of gratitude they displayed
for all men and women who have served, no matter what their
By USAF 2nd Lt. Zach Anderson|
4th Air Force
Air Force News
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