U.S. Space Force swearing in ceremony a family affair for native son Justin Cunningham

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Jul. 8—MARIETTA — The veterans center at Chattahoochee Technical College on Thursday played host to a ceremony that saw a member of its namesake family sworn in as an officer of the United States Space Force.

Justin Cunningham's swearing-in event, just outside the veterans center named for his grandfather, was a family affair. The Air Force major and son of Superior Plumbing's Jay Cunningham had his wife, Ashley, also an Air Force major, read the oath before the couple's two young daughters helped tear the Velcro Air Force patches of his uniform and replace them with Space Force patches.

Justin Cunningham's father, grandmother — an Army veteran of more than two decades — and two of his siblings also attended the event.

The ceremony, which Justin Cunningham said he chose to hold at the school because of the veterans center named for his grandfather, represents the end of his service in the Air Force and the beginning of service in the Space Force.

"Every combat and noncombat operation in large scale will be done ... with support of the United States Space Force," he said. "So I'm happy to step into that mantle and hold that responsibility for the tenure that I have left to serve the country."

After his swearing in, Justin Cunningham presented Chattahoochee Tech President Ron Newcomb with a U.S. Space Force Flag to add to the display of flags in the school's veterans center.

"(This) means we're complete now. We're very proud to add that. I'm sure we're one of the few locations ... that have the Space Force flag added to the stand of all the service flags," Newcomb said. "We're so honored that they would choose this location to have this interservice transfer ceremony. Two majors is a story in itself."

Following the ceremony, Jay Cunningham, owner of Superior Plumbing and the man behind the renovation and naming of Chattahoochee Tech's Jim Cunningham Veteran Services Center, said he was a proud father. And what's more, it was a special day for his family, he said.

"It's a big day. Again, I think one of the really cool things is the major, major, major piece," Jay Cunningham said. "Maj. Ashley Cunningham, Maj. Justin Cunningham at Maj. Jim Cunningham's veteran service center. That's just a cool tie-in."

And there's no person he'd rather swear him in and no place he'd rather hold the ceremony, Justin Cunningham added.

The Space Force, established in December 2019, is a military service that organizes, trains and equips space forces to protect U.S. and allied interests in space and to provide space capabilities, including intelligence and satellite technologies, to the joint force, according to the branch's website.

What he'll do in the Space Force isn't yet known, he said, but Ashley and Justin Cunningham say they're hopeful they'll be able to stay together as a family unit as they continue their work in both services.

Follow Thomas Hartwell on Twitter at twitter.com/MDJThomas.

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