You are more than a number

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ken Ostrat
  • 908th Airlift Wing
Amid all of the force structure talk, I've heard some people wonder if they are the victims of being a faceless number to be cut, that there is nothing that sets them apart. Changes are inevitable, and we may see dramatic ones in the not-too-distant future, but think about who you are.

We look back at periods of history and hold in the highest regard those who sacrificed to preserve and protect our great nation. Where do you compare?

At the beginning of our history, men volunteered to serve in militias, rebelling against their king to create this nation and laying the foundation that would eventually become one half of the Air Reserve Component called the National Guard. Those men took great personal and financial risk, enduring legendary hardships while they served.

Most served for very short periods of time and left, causing the Continental Army to almost constantly train new recruits.
The Civil War saw massive volunteerism for a cause tangibly clear to the hearts and minds of the soldiers. On both sides they were fighting for their homeland and their very way of life. It was easy to be inspired to join and fight for the cause for both sides.

We proclaim those who fought in World War II to be "The Greatest Generation," and every generation that follows owes those men and women a debt of gratitude for the stand they made against global tyranny, but our entire participation in the conflict from Pearl Harbor to Nagasaki took only 45 months - about the same amount of time it takes to finish high school.

We've been in the Middle East since 1991. In some capacity, we've put our men and women in harm's way there for 21 years. This has been the longest sustained period of foreign conflict in our country's history, and it hasn't always been popular or obvious why. It's only through the persistent commitment of a few that we have kept those who would harm us at bay.

That is where you are different from everyone who came before.

We live in a society that is comparatively comfortable, even with the current economy. We want for very little and there is a culture of ease about us. We enjoy this despite the efforts of those who would take it away from us.

There are 300 million people living that comfortable life in America, and only around one percent of them serve as the barrier against the enemy who threatens that tranquility every day. We don't have a draft; those "one percenters" have to volunteer to step away from their comfortable life and put themselves in harm's way. They give up weekends, birthdays, time with their spouses and children, all to put themselves in the way of those who would do their nation harm.

It doesn't matter how close to the tip of the spear your job puts you. You have stood up, defied the convention of your peers and put yourself on the razor's edge. No one forced you, and no one will understand what you give up to protect them so they will never be able to properly thank you.

The important thing is that we understand price of serving. We appreciate each other, because we understand what each of us gives up to belong to our unit. Whatever changes may come, we won't lose that appreciation for the long, dedicated service you have given the Air Force, the Reserve, the wing and your nation.

We are not faceless numbers. We are much more. We will get through this time, and we will take care of each other, because we understand the true value of someone who stands up to be a member of the 908th Airlift Wing.