First sergeant thanks you for serving

CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- When I enlisted in 1983, the world was a very different place. Russia was our enemy, the one computer our unit had was large enough to fill an entire room and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" created a new form of entertainment called the music video.

"Back in the day," many of us joined the Air Force to travel, earn money for college or simply to get out from under our parent's authority. Now, TiVo-forward 24 years and today our enemies lurk in the shadows all over the world, personal computers fit in the palm of our hands and music videos like Thriller have become as outdated as an eight-track tape. In this post 9/11 world, even the focus of Air Force recruiting has changed.

In the 1980s, we were enticed by the economic and educational opportunities military life afforded. While many may have volunteered out of a sense of patriotism, they did not do so at a time when our nation was at war. Times have definitely changed.

Today, young men and women enlist knowing they may be called to act as sentries who protect the Pentagon from a barrage of daily cyber attacks. Others become guardians of freedom by supporting combat missions in Iraq or Afghanistan, or performing humanitarian missions around the world at a moment's notice. These patriots are not just focused on what the Air Force can do for them, but on what they can do in the service of our nation.

If you haven't attended a First Term Airmen's Center graduation lately, I believe you'd be impressed by the clarity with which our newest Airmen speak about answering our nation's call. Hearing them vow to defend this nation with their lives and promising to never leave a wingman behind is truly inspiring.

At this time in our nation's history, when we're easily focused on the challenges of budget cuts, constant deployments and the ever-changing virtual way we accomplish our mission, I believe it becomes more and more important to recognize the tremendous, daily accomplishments of our entire Air Force family. My hat goes off to the spouses who take on single parent roles for extended periods of time and creatively come up with ways to keep their families strong. I am grateful to co-workers and civilians who not only fill the mission gap of those deployed, but take on additional responsibilities of cutting lawns and coaching base little leagues to support the families of our deployed members. This keeps our community strong.

As a first sergeant, it would be nearly impossible to accomplish my job taking care of people without the network of support created by our mental health and chaplain communities. When life gets tough and Airmen need a hand to make sense of it all, these caring professionals help us keep our faith strong.

And finally, it is so important to thank the 98.5 percent of our Airmen who regularly make responsible choices and choose not to participate in destructive behaviors like drinking and driving. They know how valuable they are to our Air Force family and refuse to do anything to jeopardize the mission. Their commitment to our core values keeps our team strong.

It's touching to me when I'm in uniform off base and a perfect stranger comes up to me and says, "Thanks for serving." Honestly, it just feels good to know that people appreciate what we do. So please, take the time to tell someone in our Air Force family that you appreciate them. You may never know how important a well-placed "thank you" can be to someone.

Thank you for serving!