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Why I served

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Drake
  • 62nd Airlift Wing command chief
As my 32 year Air Force career comes to a rapid close I've found myself growing increasingly sentimental and reflective.  I've spent considerable time pondering, savoring and squirreling away the memories of the places I've been, the people I've worked with and the achievements we've made over the past three decades.  What was it that influenced me to spend the vast majority of my life in uniform?  Why was I compelled to live a life of constant change and personal sacrifice for so long?  Has it been worth it?

We all choose to serve for a multitude of various reasons; to get away from a small town, to see the world, for educational opportunities or simply for a steady paycheck.  I remember quite well how my father brilliantly wagered that I wasn't smart enough to be an Airman!  Well, I took his bet, and soon found myself on Bergstrom Air Force Base taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. I'll never forget that day and how impressed I was with all the Airmen in professional and proud they looked in uniform.  I wanted to be a part of this and soon found myself reporting for basic training.  I sure showed my old man...or was it the other way around?

Regardless of why we join, we quickly learn that we've joined more than an institution. We become part of something much bigger and more important than ourselves.  We begin to internalize our core values and hold ourselves to a higher standard and expect more from ourselves and each other.  I'm no exception, I quickly realized that I had joined a family and what I was doing was critically important to the defense of our nation and made an impact on nearly every person who stood on the face of this blue planet.  I believe that each of us continue to serve because of the camaraderie, trust and the lifelong relationships we foster with our brothers and sisters in arms. We take pride in the connection we feel with those who have come before us, a commitment to those beside us and a responsibility to those who will follow in our footsteps. There's no doubt, it's an honor and a privilege to be an American Airman.

So yes, it's absolutely been worth it and as I spend my last few weeks on active duty, I'm quickly realizing that what I'll miss most is the daily interaction with the finest Americans this country has to offer; Americans committed to Integrity, selflessness and excellence. What I'll miss the most is my family of Airmen, my brothers and sisters in arms who have unquestionably "had my back."  Although I'll always be an Airman, it will certainly be different.  Though I won't be there to help shoulder the load and celebrate your future accomplishments, rest assured I'll continue to cheer from the sidelines and will take comfort knowing that there's a group of proud and strong Airmen who continue the long blue line and who absolutely WILL NOT FAIL!