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Creating a legacy

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- As Memorial Day approaches, we take time to honor our veterans and reflect on the sacrifices they made and the legacy they have left behind.

Legacy is defined as something received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. Do you ever wonder about what legacy you might leave behind? If you haven't, I recommend you do so.

Recently I had the honor of attending a ceremony where several Vietnam veterans were presented a 50-year service award ribbon. My father was one of those veterans receiving an award. Congressional representatives thanked them for their service to their country and most importantly for their patriotism and the sacrifices they made. These service members enlisted or were drafted at a time when people were looked down upon for defending this great country's way of life.

After losing many of their friends and Soldiers fighting in a war far away from their families, too many of our Vietnam veterans were ridiculed and many times made to feel like they were killers with no purpose. For most of us, we have no idea what that must have felt like.

From my first deployment during Desert Storm to my last deployment to Iraq, as I came back to the States still in my uniform I was thanked, hands shook, meals paid for and airline seats upgraded to name a few gracious things that I was given. I held my head high because I felt so proud of our country and how far we have come and thankful for those that sacrificed for us.

Why am I telling this story when talking about legacy? It's because of their service-before-self attitude that they maintained while enduring their thankless service and making this country even better for those that followed in their footsteps.

Many of these same Vietnam vets have taken on the role of positively supporting the current troops at all costs. They were not ashamed or afraid to stand for patriotism and the love of this country when it was unpopular. They are the ones who said "this won't happen again on my watch" when most of the country was saying just the opposite.

Now fast forward to today.

I ask you to stand in the mirror tomorrow morning and ask what am I doing to make things better for my military brethren, the Air Force, the 127th Wing and your own unit? Are you making sure that you prepare yourself by completing your training, PME, and fitness when you should and not waiting until a position opens up? That necessary training helps prepare you for the future and not just the next open position. It gives you the leadership insight necessary to motivate people to become better Airman and Soldiers.

One of the easiest ways to leave a positive legacy is to always strive for self-improvement in some form or fashion. PME and other advanced education should be looked at primarily as a means of self-improvement and not just as a way to move to a higher position to get more money in the bank. I was one of those who that way earlier in my career. I wanted a college degree to have one. What I didn't realize is that it was giving me the tools I needed to make myself better and more importantly make others better. I learned to be patient, to listen and to positively motivate others.

From the top leaders to those who follow, we must always think about making things better for those that follow. Each military job is interrelated to another and is just as important. Even working in the support arena as I do in the Comptroller Flight can directly impact the mission. Without personnel we don't have positions to fill. Without money, we can't buy parts for the aircraft. Without supply, you can't order and purchase the parts. Without the maintainers, you can't repair the aircraft. Without the pilots, the planes don't fly. Without ops and planning, we don't have missions.

Don't you want to be able to turn a broken aircraft around to get it back into the fight with greater efficiency and reliability or even better being a good wingman and turning a struggling Airman around? I know I do and I can do something about it by preparing myself and others to be better than I was.

No matter what branch of service or rank, there is a creed of service. When you read your creed you should know that you are a part of something so big and so great no matter who you are you can make that difference and make things better.

I thank each veteran for the sacrifice they made whether with their life or their time for making this a great country and leaving a legacy of patriotism and self-sacrifice as it relates to the core values. Be proud of who you are, I know I am. What legacy are you leaving behind?