As a member of the U.S. Air Force for 14 years and six months, I proudly reflect on my military service and am grateful to the Air Force for developing me into the person I am today.
I owe everything to the Air Force and, although I chose to voluntarily and honorably separate, I am forever proud to call myself a veteran. I joined the Air Force right out of high school at 17 in 1994. Starting out as an E-1, I quickly got promoted through the ranks up to E-6, when I completed my bachelor's degree, paid in full by the Air Force, and became a commissioned officer, separating in 2008 as an O-3E.
I've had the privilege of serving with some of the most intelligent, talented, dedicated, inspiring people in the country and working with the most technologically advanced computer systems and aircraft in the world at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Kuwait City International Airport in Kuwait, Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England and Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
Being such an integral asset to the world's greatest military gave me a unique perspective of the triumphs as well as challenges faced by military members of all ranks covering all branches. It has changed the way I see the world. I've experienced wonderful cultures so different from our own, yet so beautiful in their own right. I've seen people in foreign nations beg for our help and our love. I've also seen those who condemn Americans, our way of life and our invasion of their country.
All of my experiences have changed me as a person, my outlook on life and my goals for my family. Thanks to the Air Force, I have a husband who is still active duty, serving today; four remarkable children who were all born on military installations at no charge to me; a master's degree that was paid in full by the Air Force; and more than 14 years of unparalleled training and leadership experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life.
So, on this Veterans Day, while our federal employees get a much deserved day off and the rest of the nation is either working or shopping the Veterans Day sales, let's not forget about those military members who are or ever have been away from their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, or daughters, in a foreign land fighting for the freedoms Americans take for granted.
When you kiss your loved one goodnight tonight, give them an extra kiss for that military member who can't kiss their loved one. Hold your child tight for that military member who can't hold their child. And, thank a service member's family for selflessly sacrificing time, holidays, childbirths and other life events separated from their military member. Military families are a strong, independent and selfless inspiration to us all. Happy Veterans Day!
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