Dragon Corner: Today’s Airmen are stewards of a great legacy

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mark Sanders
  • 81st Surgical Operations Squadron
About a year ago, my wife and I were having lunch in the base exchange food court.

An elderly gentleman kept looking over and finally came to our table.

He asked me, "First sergeant, does the Air Force still have 35-10?"

"Yes sir, but it's called 36-2903 now," I replied. Why do you ask?"

He then told me some issues he had noticed with the way some of today's Airmen looked and wore their uniform. That began our discussion.

It turns out he was retired and had spent some time as a first sergeant. We sat and chatted for 10 to 15 minutes about differences between his time and ours and compared them to today. We also discussed challenges that he faced back then that we still face today.

After a while, he said that he didn't want to keep me from my lunch. I laughed and said it was no problem and then thanked him for his service. He, in return, thanked me for mine.

After he left, I commented to my wife about how he was still on 'it' (meaning on the job) and how he expected Airmen to look good in their uniform. This encounter made me think of our current generation and then my mind wandered to past generations that served this country. Those Airmen that came before us, retirees who still love the Air Force and feel their hearts swell with pride when they see Old Glory waving in the wind.
I realized that what the gentleman was passionate about wasn't just Airmen taking pride in their uniform and duty. We are the standard bearers of their legacy and he wants us to act accordingly.

In some very distinct ways, we face similar challenges and demands that those Airmen did, both at home and abroad. They raised their right hand and repeated the oath to solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, just as we did. They moved wherever the Air Force told them to, be it a state far from home, a remote assignment or a long deployment. They missed child births, birthdays, holidays and funerals. They watched their friends die in combat and then solemnly watched the news as unsavory people reclaimed the lands and cities we abandoned, that they and their friends bled for. They made the same sacrifices we make now, but in many cases they did it for a longer time period.

The Air Force, the most powerful airpower in the world, has been in action continuously since 1991. We follow a great tradition of service and must respect and honor those who came before us.

Remember those veterans of the world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf wars and current conflicts. Every Airman represents the heritage of those veterans and reflects the entire Air Force. We each must always bear that responsibility, burden and honor.

To everyone we meet on- or off-base, in uniform or out, we represent an entire generation in service to our country.

To quote Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, "Our Air Force is the most powerful airpower in the world; for more than 60 years we've enjoyed an air superiority no other can match. It is a truth that should compel pride, a pride that must drive each of us to be faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor. We have a lot of Airmen in our Air Force...we need a lot of Air Force in our Airmen. When you raise your right hand, remember what it stands for; remember the men and women who have taken the solemn oath before you; and remember that service is a calling with intangible rewards: pride, service and duty...these will always be priceless."

Next time a retiree stops you to thank you for your service, remember to thank them in return. They are the ones who made our Air Force great. It doesn't matter if you are Guard, Reserve or active duty; serve to make those who preceded us proud of our contributions to the flag and country.

Most of all, remember that we are the stewards of their legacy. Show them the respect they deserve and make their legacy your own.