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Proud to serve: I am an American Airman

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. -- While assigned to serve Airmen of the Air Force Honor Guard, I continue to note one of the most humbling experiences in my 26-year tenure, the opportunity to stand on the grounds of the Air Force Memorial.
   Like most experiences, they only become important when we assign and retain meaning to them. The memorial itself is of the finest quality. It's situated to provide the most breathtaking views of the Pentagon, the Washington Mall and Arlington National Cemetery, where our heroes from all services, all wars, are laid to rest.
   A bronze sculpture of Air Force Honor Guardsmen reflects all Airmen who have served, are serving or will serve. The figures are 8 feet tall; the flags reach a height of approximately 15 feet.
   It was my first glimpse of this bronze sculpture that moved me to humility. My thoughts went immediately to the countless unsung Airmen I've served with.
   The "Cable Dogs," laying computer lines to keep our networks operational, polishing their boots even though they were descending underground.
   The mighty "Convoy" Airmen, enduring ground-breaking field training to meet and then exceed cargo-hauling demands on the most treacherous roads.
   Supply, fuels and contracting teams always steady and ready to sustain us at home and in deployed locations.
   Civil engineer Airmen who can turn a bare field into an operational command post.
   The air traffic controllers who bring home multiple joint-service teams, keeping the airspace safe and the missions on time.
   Services Airmen maximizing quality of life, with limited resources, for us and our families.
   Security forces Airmen standing watch long after we've called it a day.
   Instructors in all capacities, updating curriculum and demanding excellence to ensure competence from every student.
   Our civilian teams, some serving right alongside us in deployed locations.
   Let me not forget our pilots and "maintainers," those of the legacy generation and those with new air and space visions to fulfill.
   As the parent of four amazing young adults, my thoughts also include the family teams that make up our incredible military communities.
   I will always be thankful for the support and care of helping hands.
   Finally, my thoughts survey my current team of ceremonial guardsmen, up before sunrise, checking meticulous detail after detail, to ensure we represent all Air Force members with unprecedented excellence like it was an inaugural event. The stillness is broken only by the sound of our premier United States Air Force Band, providing the cadence for the first step off the marks.
   You don't have enough time and I don't have enough space to list all the Airmen and incredible citizens, past and present, that come to mind.
   Philip Kennicott, a staff writer for the Washington Post, wrote in his article "Wild Blue Yonder" that Honor Guard figures felt "a little bit like a 35 cent plastic bride and groom figurine stuck on a $500 wedding cake." Sadly, for a few he may be right.
   However, a larger truth is evident. There will never, and I mean never, be a monument that will encapsulate the tremendous intangible contributions Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines make to this country. The armed forces provide a gift to all Americans that no other institution can -- freedom. This is truly a priceless gift; we don't even require its recipients to be on the front line, nor understand the experience of war. I am proud to serve because, I am an American Airman.