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News > Commentary - If you're wondering why it's important to serve, just ask the veterans serving today
If you're wondering why it's important to serve, just ask the veterans serving today

Posted 11/8/2010   Updated 11/8/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
Air Mobility Command Public Affairs

11/8/2010 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Over the course of my recent deployment to Southwest Asia between December 2009 and June 2010, I wrote more than 400 stories highlighting deployed service members.

Those stories included deployed Airmen from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing as well as U.S. Army Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery. While my deployed base held a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of deployed troops, what I learned from them about why they serve is a direct reflection of how military veterans of today are proud to follow in the footsteps of veterans past.

"I enjoy serving in the U.S. Army," said Army Sgt. Peter Gehrke of the 1-7 ADA at Fort Bragg, N.C., and whose hometown is Port Washington, Wisc. "I joined to experience a different lifestyle and travel to different places and meet new people. My grandfather and father also served so I wanted to serve as well."

The Airmen and Soldiers I was deployed with came from all walks of life and from all areas of the military. There were people from active duty, Army and Air National Guard and Army and Air Force Reserve. It was a total and joint force of people who had many reasons to serve.

For many of the people I interviewed, serving and deploying with the military was carrying on a family tradition. For others, it was personal.

"I was working for United (Airlines) on Sept. 11, (2001) when the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and crashed in the field in Pennsylvania," said Capt. Hillary Wykes, a KC-10 Extender pilot who was deployed from the 9th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "The people on those planes were my co-workers. My whole world changed."

Captain Wykes, whose hometown is Plano, Ill., added on serving and deploying, "I am incredibly proud to be able to serve in our nation's Air Force. This is my fourth deployment to the Middle East, and each time I am out here, I am reminded of how good we have it as American citizens."

And speaking of citizens, there was one citizen Airman I deployed with -- Senior Master Sgt. Mark Miller of the Iowa Air National Guard - who not only became a good friend of mine but also reminded me how important each and every service member is to defending our freedoms. He also pointed out how important one's family is to serving.

"I have a great pride in our country," said Sergeant Miller, who currently resides in Humboldt, Iowa, and whose hometown is Sioux City, Iowa. "When I told my wife I wanted to volunteer for this deployment, she asked me why. I told her that I was close to retirement, I would be taking off my first sergeant diamond in June and I had one last chance to make a difference in an Airman's life. Maybe, I thought, I could help someone who was having a hard time coping in a deployed environment. She, my two sons and my daughter have supported me ever since and I'm glad I was able to do this one more time."

Another Airman I interviewed, Senior Airman Larry Syska from the 127th Force Support Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., said no one needs to ask him why he serves, but more so why not?

"From top to bottom, whether it be here or at home, we all have an important role to play in our nation's safety and security," said Airman Syska, a former Soldier and whose hometown is Harrison, Mich. "I choose to do it wherever and whenever my unit needs me. It gives me a great sense of pride and satisfaction knowing that even in the smallest of ways I do my part to keep our country safe."

The Soldier and Airmen I have as examples here are but a small footprint in the long path of history of Americans who chose to serve their country. On Veteran's Day Nov. 11, our nation will take time to remember all those who have served and serve today.

What I'd like you to remember in observing Veteran's Day is that it doesn't matter what military service they are from, or whether or not they are Guard, Reserve or active duty service members. The reasons people serve in the military coincide with the foundations our country was founded upon -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They want to defend everything America represents and they do so proudly.

I must also add that we serve successfully only with the extraordinary help of our families, friends and the support of our hometowns. Our values, beliefs, character and courage is often shaped with the help of people whom we surround ourselves with and veterans of today or yesterday will agree that this is how it is.

Combining each service member's personal drive and their support from their loved ones creates quite a formidable force for which every American should be grateful for, and should remember, this Veteran's Day.

11/11/2010 6:39:45 PM ET
11/11/2010 10:04:11 AM ET
Thank you to all the veterans and their families for their service to this great country. I salute you. Bob USAF 71-79.
Bob Broene, Holland Mi
11/8/2010 4:22:11 PM ET
Scott -- A wonderful article that helps us all to reflect on why we chose to serve. Thank you for your service. Well said
CMSgt Judy Bivens retired, Selmer TN
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