Honoring Veterans through Wingmanship

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On November 11th, we honored the 22 million living Americans who have served in the armed forces of this nation. Some of us served when our country called on us during times of national peril, others volunteered because we felt it was the right thing to do. While there are a few key events that everyone who has worn the uniform can relate to (early morning PT sessions, prepping uniforms for an inspection, learning the customs and courtesies we maintain as a military community) what unifies us is that first experience of raising our right hands and pledging to defend our country. It is service that defines us.

Veterans Day emerged out of the horrors of World War I as an acknowledgement that all those who serve deserve recognition for their contributions to national security, not just those who fell in battle. The community of veterans includes heroes from combat missions like the Doolittle Raiders who risked greatly demonstrating that America would not quietly cede the Pacific after the attack on Pearl Harbor or the soldiers who bravely held fast at the Chosin Reservoir during a brutal Korean winter. It includes those who never saw combat but provided vital support to military operations necessary to secure our freedoms. It includes those who came home from war bearing the scars of combat, both physical and emotional, that are carried for the rest of their days.

During basic training, one of the key lessons that the instructors drive into new recruits is that we only succeed as a team. The challenges laid out are designed to be impossible to achieve if you only have a gaggle of 30 individuals but who easily come together if you have a 30-Airman team. Once we join our operational units we're constantly reminded that we need to be good Wingmen to our fellow Airmen because life is challenging and if we let an Airman fall behind it means we've failed as a team. Take a second and think back to a time when you got help from a Wingman right when you needed it. Keep that in mind. I'd like to share a couple of facts with you about some fellow veterans who are in desperate need of a Wingman. The Department of Housing and Urban Development says that 55,000 veterans are homeless. The Wounded Warrior Project's Alumni roster has the names of 71,866 veterans who came home from war with significant physical or emotional injuries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there are 573,000 unemployed veterans in America. These men and women raised their hands when their nation called upon them, just like we did.

In his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of the impending reunification of the North and South and the need "to care for him who shall have borne the battle." In honor of all of those we celebrated this Veterans Day, take some time to think about our Wingmen, both those still serving and all who have returned to civilian life. We would drop anything to help an Airman in need of assistance; there are thousands of former Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who need a Wingman right now. Will it be you?