Farewell friends, family

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Owen Duke, Sr.
  • 908 AW

To The Greatest Generation:

The Greatest Generation? Oh yes you are! From day one, and for the last 15 years You, the Reservist and your Guard brethren, have carried the load of this war. YOU have deployed several times leaving family and friends behind, YOU continue to volunteer to go into harm’s way, YOU return home and do your very best to assimilate back into a society who simply cannot comprehend what you have seen and done and YOU continue to give this old man confidence that our country will be OK … there will always be rough spots, but YOU will make sure we prevail.

Just the other day, a co-worker asked me when I was retiring. I told him at the end of April. His reply, "You must be looking forward to not having to get up early and do all that stuff anymore." His comment struck me odd and I stared at him for a minute until replying, "Nothing could be further from the truth. I have never HAD to do anything. I wore the uniform because I wanted to, because I was lucky enough to be a member of the bravest, largest, best trained and most feared fraternity on earth, the United States Military!"

I have loved wearing this uniform; it has given me a sense of purpose, a sense of being. Wearing the uniform is a privilege, shared by less than one percent of the population. Civilians feel a sense of safety and a sense of calm when they see someone wearing a U.S. military uniform. However, it is not the uniform that makes us different; it is the person wearing the uniform. Much like the Core Values, they are not woven into the fabric of your uniform. They are woven into you: the Airman. It is you who must eat, sleep and live the Core Values for them to have any meaning. Like a mailbox, your name is on the outside, but it is what lies within that matters.

My father always said, "If you find something you love to do and can get someone to pay you to do it, you ain’t working … you’re living the dream! "Well, I lived the dream! We all volunteered to serve in a job we chose. Not to mention, we get free stuff: travel, training, uniforms, and of course, free vaccinations! On the other hand, our family and friends did not sign up for the dream. They are the ones who stay at home and carry the burden of not knowing exactly what we do or where we are; they are the ones who take care of things while we are gone. They are the ones who pray there will not be a knock at the door. Wearing the uniform, living the dream, is easy; being the family member who waits and prays is the tough part! Make sure you let them know you are where you are because it is their support which enables you to serve.

As you grow older, your inner circle of childhood friends will get smaller and smaller. There will be but a handful, maybe 5 to 10, you will maintain contact with. They are the ones who will remind you of your youth and what it was like to be completely carefree. Hold them close, protect each other, and never forget your roots. Your core group of military friends and family will continue to grow. There will be many, each having a story for the two of you to relive many times. They will remind you that you are part of something much bigger than yourself, and you will miss this camaraderie more than you can imagine. Think I am joking? I still run into folks I served with in Germany 40 years ago, as well as Baghdad almost 10 years ago. Take care of each other…your paths will cross again.

Since coming to the 908th AW (then the 908th Tactical Airlift Group) in 1994, I have watched young men and women grow from 18-year old high school graduates to great leaders with children of their own; some are now 908th members! My 17 years with Security Forces and two trips to Iraq made me proud to be a team member of the highly disciplined, in your face, looking for the fight, warriors. You are the best! Thank you for allowing me to wear the beret and badge; you are why I am here.

During my five years in this seat, I have tried to learn from everybody. I have laughed or cried with most of you. The laughing has been about crazy stuff that (had to have) happened, because there is no way someone could have made it up. The crying has been about; well, does it really matter? When we hurt, we want someone to share the pain with, someone we trust, someone who will not judge and someone who will just listen. Take time to listen when others are talking; you might be surprised at what you learn.

I tried to impress upon you the importance of learning your job better than anyone else. We fight our country’s wars; this is a dangerous business…it isn’t for everybody. Train for war and pray, pray, pray, for peace. Fear nothing!

Be safe and take care of each other…

Gone sailing…