Remembering Why We Serve
(June 20, 2009)
|AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (6/16/2009 - AFNS) -- In the summer of 2006, while
assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy, I met a young man who reinforced the
reason why I serve. |
I was about to enter an elevator when he and his mother, an instructor at the
academy, walked in to ascend to the upper floors of the academic building. The
mother introduced me to her son and I could already size him up as an upright
young man who was a poster child for military service.
As I shook his hand, he informed me that he was about to graduate high school
and was contemplating a life in uniform. I took the opportunity to try to
recruit the young man into the Air Force and that's when I learned that he came
from a proud military family as both his parents were serving or had served in
His mother explained that her son wanted to join the Army as his father did and
I could tell he was excited about the opportunity of serving as well. However,
by the expressions on the mother's face, I could also tell she had concerns
about her son's plans of service. She knew we were a nation at war and there was
no doubt in her mind that her son would do his part.
As we stopped at the designated floor, I once again shook this young man's hand,
reminded him that the Air Force was still hiring, but ultimately wished him the
best of luck in his future endeavors. His smile and firm hand shake said it all.
On Sept. 5, 2007, the news spread that a child of an Air Force Academy
instructor had been lost to an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq ... it
was the young man I had met in the elevator almost a year earlier, killed in
action at 19 years old.
Although very difficult for me, out of respect I attended the wake and stood in
line to provide my condolences to the family. It was a closed casket. When it
was my turn, the mother saw me and immediately screamed out "You know, you know"
repeatedly as I embraced her and shared in her grief.
In the five-minute meeting inside the elevator she knew that I could tell what
kind of man her son was and to what lengths he would go to serve his country.
She knew that I knew that her son didn't serve for prestige, money, or medals,
but did what thousands of young men and women across our nation do every day:
serve the greater good.
To this day, the picture of Spc. Dane R. Balcon remains a permanent fixture on
my desk to remind me that freedom is indeed not free, but has a price. That
price is paid in the air, land and sea by the men and women in uniform who serve
our great country around the world making sacrifices every day to preserve our
nation's values and our way of life.
While there may be various personal reasons why some serve, (finances,
education, opportunity, travel, etc.), I believe we ultimately serve because of
the belief that there is something bigger than ourselves that's worth defending.
Call it patriotism, a way of life, freedom, the fact remains that those of us in
uniform, regardless of specialty, serve for the greater good. That's what
Specialist Balcon believed and that's what I believe as well.
So I ask you, why do you serve?
By USAF Lt. Col. Victor Moncrieffe
31st Security Forces Squadron commander
Air Force News Service
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