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A time to celebrate our Airmen!

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
I just can't help but be so proud to be an American and to serve in our United States Air Force. What an incredible week we've had as we came together to honor and reflect on the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11. I cannot tell you how proud I am of the incredible Airmen in this wing and for the superb support we receive from our tenant.

Of note, is the outstanding leadership and vision of Senior Master Sgt. Shannon Rix, who had an idea to create a 9/11 memorial and pay tribute to those who lost their lives, as well as honor those who continue to serve in today's armed forces and as first responders in our communities.

She teamed up with Capt. Kyle Mattie and what would eventually become the 9/11 Observance Committee to bring to life a ceremony befitting of the messages of resiliency despite our loss. This team worked for months in preparation to lay the groundwork of approvals and paperwork, to raise money for the memorial itself and to put together a ceremony that had many moving parts.

In the words of President George W. Bush: "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."

That resolve shined as so many people volunteered their time to ensure a Showcase event. We heard from Dr. Patrick Oliver-Kelley who lived just 100 yards away from the World Trade Center and how it affected him, as well as words from Master Sgt. Jennifer Roman, who worked at the Pentagon that day. Both stories illustrated the personal effects the events of that day had on them, and how we all changed as a nation. From the playing of taps, to "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes by Ricardo Cumba to the fantastic performance of "God Bless America" by the Belleville East High School Choir, to the precision movements of our color guard and firefighter watchmen, it was certainly an event that will be remembered.

There were so many people lingering after the event who wanted to come up and touch the memorial--that's when you know you did something significant and lasting. This will always be a place where you can bring your kids and talk to them about what happened that day...and what's been happening every day since then.

While 9/11 is a time for somber reflection, it's a time to prepare for the celebration of the Air Force's 64th Anniversary as an independent service which began Sept. 18, 1947.

To help us celebrate, another outstanding committee has spent months fundraising and planning for our annual "Air Force Ball," which will be held Saturday at the Scott Club.

Thanks to the efforts of Maj. Scott Wood and Senior Master Sgt. Robert Madrigal, we are looking at a sold-out event! We're especially honored to have with us Staff Sgt. Alex Eudy, a weather operations NCO who supports our special operations teams. Despite severe injuries inflicted by the enemy during operations in Afghanistan, he has spent the last two years recovering and speaking to many audiences about his journey and perspective on life. He currently serves as the Air Force Special Operations Command's sole liaison for the SOC Care Coalition where he provides wounded special operations members oversight and advocacy through the medical system.

It's profound that this Airman is speaking to us as our theme focuses on the Airman's Creed. Since 2007, we've been instilling these concepts into the fabric of our Air Force life:

I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my nation's call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to fly, fight, and win.
I am faithful to a proud heritage,
a tradition of honor,
and a legacy of valor.

I am an American Airman,
Guardian of freedom and justice,
My nation's sword and shield,
Its sentry and avenger.
I defend my country with my life.

I am an American Airman:
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind.
I will never falter,
and I will not fail.

Do these words not capture why we serve our country, why others served before us? We have answered our nation's call and will continue to do so. No matter what lies ahead, we will face it with honor and with valor. We will continue to look out for each other and ensure we are the right kind of Wingman, Leader and Warrior! As Airmen, we are fulfilling invaluable and unique roles and missions in peace, crisis and war. Together we fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace! Thanks for your service and let's celebrate our heritage, achievements and bright future!