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Remembering those who came before, why you joined

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Melissa Youderian
  • 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron commander
September is a month for remembrance. Remember the loss of 246 passengers and crew members on four airplanes, 125 people at the Pentagon and 2,606 people in New York City including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 PDNY police officers and 37 Port Authority officers. September is a month to remember the more than 6,700 United States military members who lost their lives in combat during Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. Finally, September is a month to remember the Airmen we work with whom raised their right hands and swore to support and defend the Constitution and obey the orders of the president; going to war if need be to uphold that oath.

As I took time to reflect on this, I was reminded that I am an ordinary commander surrounded by extraordinary Airmen. This led me to ask my Airmen why they volunteered to put their lives on the line for this great nation. Here is a sampling of those answers.

"My grandfather is the reason I joined the military, and he will always be one of my biggest inspirations. He joined the service in 1949 and served in the Korean War where he took a bullet to the stomach which remained, unknowing, in his body for 20 years. He was discharged with disability but forfeited his disability to return the service he loved in 1957. He retired in 1969, a war hero and Purple Heart recipient. My grandfather met and married my grandmother while in the service, and they were married for more than 50 years and had four children. My father followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Air Force as a B-52 mechanic at the age of 18. In September 2006 my grandfather passed away from cancer. He was not there to see me graduate from high school and he was not there with me the day I was sworn in, at least not in person. My grandfather will always be with me in spirit and I strive every day to be just like him in everything that I do. I am third generation United States Air Force. My grandfather inspired me to join the service and he is my hero." - Anonymous

"I joined the [Air Force] to follow those before me who sacrificed and served their country. Also like my father and grandfather, to continue the tradition of the Montgomery family name as service members. Lastly I wanted to explore, experience and live the adventure." - Senior Airman Ryan Montgomery, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron

"After high school I worked for a construction company. There was no sustainability to the line of work, and after a couple years I was burnt out. I was saving up to go to a community college near home. Living with my parents at the time made it possible for me to save money and enroll, but then my family fell on hard times. I made the decision to help with the bills instead of returning to class. We kept the house as long as we could but had to sell it in the end. I looked to the military for answers and thought it would be exciting; [it] would be nice to be a part of something so big and be able to say I served my country. I saw the recruiter in my area and got the ball rolling." -- Airman 1st Class Shane Ruark, 790th MSFS

"I joined the military to gain a sense of pride, to help regain my self-confidence, and to serve and defend the country that many people have fought for, including many members of my family. I joined for education and to have money to help my mom pay her bills. I also joined to help me prepare for a good career outside of the military. Finally, I wanted to do something that not many people can say they did and to be part of that small percent that is not afraid to lay down their life to ensure that this country, family and friends stay safe. I am part of something bigger than myself and it means more to me than anything else in this world; people and my friends don't look at me the same ... they look at me with respect and almost saying thank you without even saying it and that personally make me feel happy and makes me take even more pride in the branch I serve in and the uniform I wear." - Anonymous

"I joined the [Air Force] to create a name for myself and to be successful. I wanted a good job and to have a career. I also wanted to be a hero and serve my country like my father, grandfather and uncles did before me. I want to be bigger than just a name." -- Airman 1st Class Bobby Hill, 790th MSFS

"I joined the Air Force to meet new friends, travel and for college. Times may get rough but the satisfaction I get by putting my life on the line for my country, loved ones and my fellow Airman sustains me. If it wasn't for the Air Force I would still be in my small town having no direction in my life. The Air Force gave me a job and direction in life." -- Airman 1st Class Monte John Smith, 790th MSFS

"I joined the military to make a living for myself and serve my country in any way possible and give back to the people who gave me so much growing up." -- Anonymous

I hope September offered you a chance to remember as well and thank those Airmen, whether they are enlisted, commissioned, civilian, active, Guard or Reserve, for the promises they have made to this nation.