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We remember them by how we serve today

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing commander
Airman First Class Jacob Meier, a radiology technician, took the extra effort to help a patient out even though it was the end of a duty day. Master Sgt. Suzanna Rice, chief of financial services flight, went "above and beyond" to help a retiree resolve a pay issue. Hector Gonzalez, a utilities work leader, worked on a serious issue with a courteous and diligent manner. Maj. Christopher Putnam, our base optometrist, saw an extra 25 patients when a colleague became ill.

All these Airmen received my "Star Customer Service" award for their professionalism and dedication to duty. I had the privilege of presenting these awards to them during my quarterly commander's call, and I want to personally thank them again for their efforts.

Likewise, our Wingman Council recognized a team of people who rallied to the aid of a co-worker and friend. Capt. Jerry Tanner, a contracting officer with Air Mobility Command and father of two, had been suffering through family turmoil and a diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which took his life on March 14.

During this time though, he was not alone as Col. Stephen Elliott, Maj. Kelley Poree, John Baggett, Susan Madison and Connie Robben became his surrogate family as they cared for him and his daughters. They, along with many others in his unit, were a mighty force as they served quietly behind the scenes at times and by his bedside at others. They offered moral and spiritual support and took care of the Tanner family during this difficult time. Finally each one of these remarkable people have contributed to an education fund for his daughters. Capt Tanner's friends still remember and honor him for his dedication and to our country.

Wingmen like these don't wish for recognition or honor, indeed just the opposite. But the fact is, others watched them in their service to him and nominated them for this Wingman Recognition because it truly represents what it means to "be there for each other."

Sometimes we are left to wonder what we should do once fellow service members have gone. That is the same question that we can ask ourselves as we head into Memorial Day weekend. What can we do now? I will offer that while attending Memorial Day services and giving or hearing speeches is appropriate and needful, there are things we can do every day--and that's demonstrated by how we choose to serve our nation and each other.

That's demonstrated by the group I first mentioned, our customer service folks, who are committed to service and treat others like they are more than just a "customer." It's also demonstrated by the way we look out for each other whether through acts of thoughtfulness, mentoring, or loyalty. I will submit also that those service members who lay at rest in the earth with a marker on their grave were not just "doing their jobs" either. They believed in something ... they believed in each other.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said this in remarks delivered for Memorial Day in 1884, "To fight out a war, you must believe something and want something with all your might. So must you do to carry anything else to an end worth reaching. More than that, you must be willing to commit yourself to a course, perhaps a long and hard one, without being able to foresee exactly where you will come out. All that is required of you is that you should go somewhither as hard as ever you can. The rest belongs to fate. One may fall-at the beginning of the charge or at the top of the earthworks; but in no other way can he reach the rewards of victory."

We may not know the end of our own course, but we know we must select a path and follow through as much as possible. When we do our best and serve with "Excellence in All We Do," only then will our actions honor all those whom we seek to celebrate on Memorial Day.