How many times have you used the phrase “Air Force Family”?  I’ve used it a lot, but until recently, I’ve always related it to the fact that we spend more time with the people that we work with than with those that we live with.  However, two significant events happened this month that really made me re-think what the phrase “Air Force Family” means to me.

On 5 March, 1998 I left the MEPS station in Richmond, Va and headed to Lackland Air Force Base to start my Air Force career.  21 years later on 5 March, 2019 I headed to another MEPS station in Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC, this time to swear my son into the Air Force so he could begin his Air Force career.  When I got to the MEPS station all of the family members were put into a room together while all the recruits were in another until it was time to begin swearing them in.  Eventually recruits and families were brought together for the ceremony one last time before we had to say our goodbyes so they could begin their journeys.  This was significant event #1…but it wasn’t until the second event that it really hit me.

Event #2 happened on 15 March when I officiated a retirement ceremony.  In the couple of minutes between me saying “present the colors” and the national anthem playing is when it hit me.  I looked around the audience and I saw family members sitting in the front rows and the rest of the seats were filled with co-workers and friends.

This scene reminded me of the MEPS station…except just the opposite was occurring.  Family members were once again separated from the military members sitting in the room.  Then just before the ceremony the family members are escorted into the room for the retirement ceremony for one last time.  This time for one last time before we, the Air Force Family, say our goodbyes so they can begin their new journey.

Don’t take your role as a member of the Air Force Family lightly.  It started on Day 1, whether it was Basic Training, ROTC, the Air Force Academy, or whatever venue you used to join the Air Force.  We all say goodbye to our immediate families and walk into our new family.  We celebrate our significant events together; getting selected for promotions, completing PME or winning an award.  We have opportunities to have fun by going to squadron picnics or the annual holiday party.  Sometimes we mess up and need someone to give us the kick in the rear end to set us back on the right path.

Your role in the Air Force Family will change…sometimes daily.  You might be a mom or dad, or a brother or sister, but whatever your role is, at that moment in time, take advantage of it!  You have the opportunity to be an influence in someone’s life every day, positive or negative, you make that choice.  So go to an ALS graduation once in a while…even if you’re not the supervisor, look through the promotion list and call someone you know and congratulate them or even go to the squadron holiday party on a Saturday night.  It’s an opportunity to bring your spouse and military family together again.  Take advantage of the time you get to spend with your Air Force Family because one day we are going to sit in a room with them for one last time to say goodbye and have to give them back to their real family.

As a parent watching my son head off to basic all I could think is that I hope I raised him right and I’ve prepared him for the obstacles ahead in life.  We should do the same as an Air Force Family member, ask yourself every day, are we raising our Airmen right, are we preparing them for the obstacles that lie ahead of them for not only the remainder of their career but for the day we have to say goodbye to them and let them go out on their own into that big world we call the civilian life.

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