MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. - The bond between brothers is a very special thing. As the oldest of three, this bond holds a very special place in my heart.
In the military, it is also common to hear people refer to the men and women who perform this duty of service, brothers and sisters in arms.
To live, work and die next to someone who maybe a couple weeks ago was a complete stranger, but has become a brother or sister because of the oath they took and the sacrifices they make, holds a distinctive place in the hearts of all our armed forces members.
Their bond is a very special thing as well.
I have the privilege of being able to identify with both of these bonds - luckily enough, both at the exact same time.
Just a short couple months ago my youngest brother Logan decided to follow in his older brothers' footsteps and join the United States Air Force. To say it was a proud moment for everyone would be an understatement.
From left to right, Logan, Kendrick and Collin Schmidt pose for a photograph after a graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio on June 26, 2015. Logan was the most recent graduate of Air Force basic training and the final Schmidt brother to join the Air Force. (Courtesy photo by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt)
Kendrick, the middle of us three, was the first to join. Desperate to leave the shackles of a small town and see what the world had to offer him, he signed his name on the dotted line and left without so much as a second glance back.
For myself, after completing a degree in the art of music production, I had started to work on a second degree in the field of marketing. After a short time, I found myself in a very familiar situation to many self-supporting students. I was broke.
A decision had to be made.
Looking back on it, I believe I made the right one and what that decision has offered me is almost beyond words.
Growing up, my brothers and I always heard our father tell stories of his time in the U.S. Army. Usually, they would end in a thunderous laugh and were almost always followed by a blizzard of questions.
One of my favorites ended with a much younger version of my dad with his finger frozen to the trigger of his weapon.
Now that I think of it, most of the many stories I heard during dinner table conversations and during family get-togethers were probably just various versions of this same one.
Regardless, these stories left an impression on all of us. They were used as life lessons, they were used to cheer us up, they were used to make our family bond stronger and they were used to propel our dreams into reality.
Just a short couple of weeks ago, during a graduation ceremony at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to see my youngest brother, Logan, graduate as I stood alongside my other brother.
The look on my mother and father's faces was one of sheer joy. It was a moment I will never forget.
I will also never forget Kendrick and I having to tell our mother to keep her bawling to a minimum as we tried to hold our salutes during the national anthem. It definitely didn't work, but she did the best she could.
Yes, it was a proud day for all of us.
For our family, the Air Force has become more than just a name of an organization that we are team members of; it's become a part of the very framework that holds us together. It's become a legacy.
To say that I am grateful for that is not enough.
Looking toward the future, I do not know what it holds but I do know one thing for sure. I am now part of a team of men and women that make it bright.
I am part of a family that I can lean on who fights for not only me, but for everyone who lives under our nation's flag.
I am now truly a brother in arms.
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt
Provided through DVIDS
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