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Diamond Tip: The biggest impression

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark Peters
  • 1st Combat Camera Squadron first sergeant
A while back, I was sitting with a group of young Airmen and one of them asked me, "What one thing made the biggest impression on you during your career?"

I thought for a moment, but truth be told, I was stumped. Instead, I asked the Airmen to let me think about it and I would make it the subject of this article.

It is difficult for me to choose just one moment from a 23-year career, but if I had to, I would say my TDY to Normandy, France.

While stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the unit I was assigned to participated in the Normandy Invasion re-enactment every year. I missed the 60th anniversary in 2004 and my chief knew I was disappointed. When the time came to prepare for the 61st anniversary, the chief called me and told me the trip was mine.

We only had three days to get there, prepare the aircraft, accomplish the mission and get home. Time was definitely a factor. In the end, we overcame the time constraints and experienced all we could while accomplishing the mission without a hitch. From St. Mere Eglise, the first town to be liberated; to the pill boxes of Utah Beach; to the crater laden grounds of Point Du Hoc, the history in Normandy is everywhere you look. The local residents are a big part of that history. It amazed me how much the French loved and respected Americans in uniform. It was as if we'd just liberated the region that day! They lined up to have their pictures taken with us and get our autographs. They refused to take our money and showered us with hand-made trinkets and mementos. It was all very overwhelming, but their reaction to our presence made me think of the sacrifices made by all those that came before us.

The highlight of the trip came when my crew went to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, and Omaha Beach . While standing on this now peaceful spot, trying to imagine the chaos of that day in 1944, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a gray haired man wearing a blue jacket that read: William Walsh, 2nd Ranger Battalion. He invited us across the street to a little café to join him and a group of D-Day Vets for lunch. We sat and talked for hours about that day in history and what they went through. No scripts, no rehearsals, no time constraints. Just service members separated by generations, but bonded together by a love for their country. It was quite an honor to be a part of that experience! It is one I will never forget and forever cherish.

So what did I take away from this experience? In a nutshell, we must never take for granted the sacrifices made by those who filled the boots before us. It is their blood, sweat, and tears that guarantees the freedom we enjoy today. As Airmen in the United States Air Force, it is our duty to fight the good fight with integrity, service and excellence; and guarantee the same freedom for generations to come.