Even in Uncertainty, Pride Endures

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
You can't eat pride and respect. But it sure makes your next meal taste a little sweeter.

On the same day that the wing commander called a meeting of all personnel to discuss the looming federal sequester and resulting furloughs, which will have a very direct and real impact on the pay checks of many of my friends, I received two particularly well-timed e-mails.

The first was from one of the local commanders in the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, where I am fortunate enough to be able to wear a uniform every day. One of my fellow Airmen had won an "of the year" honor from the Air National Guard. To go along with the news story on this fact - which will appear soon on the wing's web site - the commander was preparing a comment or two on the professionalism of this particular Airman.

I find that these types of quotes from commanders in stories about Airmen winning awards often sound the same. It is true that in the military, we have a formula for a lot of things -- even the things we say about people who win awards.

There is a deeper reason, though, such comments often sound so similar. In the Air Force, we expect the same high standards from all our Airmen. Every day. No matter what. People both in Air Force blue and those who live hundreds of miles from the nearest air base expect us to have Integrity First. To put Service Before Self. And to commit to Excellence In All We Do. Anything less is not an option. Anything less just doesn't fly. The truth is, no matter what happens with the paychecks tomorrow, these core values and expectations of today will not change.

The second e-mail was from a local parade committee. While there may be snow on the ground today, planning is already underway for Memorial Day activities in the Detroit region. Many of our local parade organizers reach out to my office on an annual basis. They want fighter jets to zoom past their parade. They want people in uniform to march in their parade. They want tanks to drive down the street. The want the honor guard to carry the flag, the wing commander to ride in a convertible, the wing chaplain to say a prayer and do you have anyone who can play the bugle?

Truth be told, sometimes it feels like we're just trying to organize a big show. Each parade group wants more than the other one. But here, too, there is a deeper reason behind all these requests. I think people still believe in America. In fact, they love America. And people in Air Force blue - and our planes, our brothers and sisters in Army green, Navy blue, Marine Corps red & gold, Coast Guard orange, the wing commander, a tank, the chaplain, and a guy who plays the bugle - it all represents the part of America they love. The part they want. Integrity. Service. Excellence. People see that in the uniforms we wear. They expect it. And they deserve it.

Plans are being laid to reduce the size of the federal budget. The merits of this and the priorities to be set are beyond my purview. I do know that this will impact the people who work for the Defense Department, including many people I know. Their paychecks likely will decrease in size. I do know that no one likes when this change comes to their own doorstep. 

But Integrity and Service and Excellence, these things will not change. They cannot be allowed to change. America expects these things of us.

America deserves these things of us.

And the Airmen I know, the Airmen at Selfridge, have continued to deliver on these values. Even on days when the talk is on reduced paychecks.