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I Owe the Air Force for everything

Lt. Col John Pericas

Col. John Pericas

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- As I'm nearing the sunset of my Air Force career it becomes easier to answer the following question: What do I owe the Air Force? 
   My response to this simple question: "I believe I owe the Air Force for everything." 
   I know it sounds far-fetched and no I'm not bucking for another promotion or a "pat on the back," but in my case it's true. 
   I'm grateful that my father enlisted in the Air Force on 29 December 1948. His family was living in Spanish Harlem, on 142d Street, identified as the most crime ridden street in New York City at the time.
    My dad just wanted to escape an environment of urban crime and violence. He didn't realize the life changing opportunity the Air Force would give him. It provided him a "career ladder," he could climb regardless of race, gender, or poor income status, if he was willing to buy into the Air Force way of life-- Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in all We Do. 
   Thanks to the Air Force, my dad met my mom during his first duty station at Bolling AFB. A few years later, I was born at Bitburg AB, Germany. 
   My mom ran the "home front" relying on the BX and Commissary to dress and feed three children. My dad retired as a senior master sergeant, providing me a powerful example of what an Air Force career can do to change the destiny of any family. Afterwards, all he had to do was leverage the valuable skills he gained in the Air Force to achieve an even better way of life for his family in the civilian sector.
   I followed my dad's advice to attend the Air Force Academy. I was blessed with meeting my wife, Val, during my academy days because her father, a retired master sergeant, decided to live in Colorado Springs, Colo. 
   Val's older sisters and my oldest sister all married military officers. My brother enlisted in the Air Force for several years as well. As you can see, the Air Force has been at the center of both our families' lives and has helped each of them improve their way of life. 
   Thanks to the Air Force, I've climbed the career ladder through six promotions while Val and I raised our three children. 
   Just like my dad, I've made the Air Force a career and, in return, I was given an endless opportunity to improve the destiny of my family by using the education, assignments, and jobs to develop skill sets throughout my career and provide my family a better way of life than I ever imagined when I started my Air Force career.
   It's easy to get frustrated when the next transformation initiative hits, but don't get discouraged. Instead, keep your outlook positive and keep your eye on the long term proposition. 
   You are going to have to overcome challenges during an era of Air Force transformation. However, these challenges are worth enduring to grow as a leader and to develop the skill sets needed to change the destiny of your family. 
   So it's OK to owe the Air Force. Not only is it a great way of life, but it will provide an equally promising future.