When I look back on my Air Force career and reflect on all the amazing experiences I’ve had, I don’t think of the jets and combat missions as much as the people.
Over the last sixteen years, I’ve visited some of the bases I was stationed at and even had the opportunity to speak to the troops. When I arrived on base, I didn’t immediately run onto the flight line to see the jets. Instead, I walked the halls and looked at the photos on the walls, hoping to find a familiar face and reflect on an old memory from years ago.
I miss the friendships, camaraderie, and emotional connection I had with some of the greatest high-performance leaders I’ve ever met. I miss the Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners during my tours in Iraq and South Korea, the fun deployments to Canada, Japan, and Nellis Air Force base (Green Flag) and most of all, the hilarious nights at the squadron bar – sharing combat stories and poking fun at each other.
Sure, some of the memories were bittersweet and laced with stressful moments, but my wingmen helped me deal with the fear and challenges of being in combat. They helped me grow into the person I am today. The truth is, I learned more from the people than the flying.
Their call signs were Koz, Wilt, Yoda, Guv’ner, Lunz, Tuna, Split, and Moses (to name a few.) I miss my Air Force wingmen. I miss my friends.
And then there’s you – the citizens who love our country and embrace the values that our veterans fight and stand for every day. You make it all worth it. Your support, passion, and love inspire current and future generations to heed the call of duty and serve the most amazing country in the world. Please continue to pray for our troops and their families.
Finally, I want you to understand that you don’t need to wear a military uniform to serve. You can make a difference every day in your communities, at home, at work, and in your travels. Be a wingman to those who need you to lift them up.
So today, go ahead and thank a veteran. Perhaps you can even donate to a veteran’s charity.
But if you truly want to thank the Americans who fight for our country, then be the type of American worth fighting for.
Lt Col (ret.) Waldo Waldman