Proud to be an Airman

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "Why did you go?" someone asked me. "It's a Saturday night and you dressed in uniform to go to the anniversary ball? Why?" 

My mouth opened to answer, probably with something clever like, "Why not?" But before uttering anything, I snapped it closed and thought about the question. Why did I going to ball? 

Vandenberg recently held its 50th Anniversary Ball at the Pacific Coast Club. I had spent the $50 for tickets, prepared my mess dress and bought my wife a gown. We ate, we danced, we socialized, but I hadn't thought about the why. 

Thinking back on that night, my friend awaiting an answer, I began to think of several reasons why we went - the great food at the club, a live band rocking the dance floor and a chance to hang out with friends and coworkers. 

However, there was one reason more important than all the rest - history. Yes, there were historical displays throughout the club, and the base's videographers had put together a great video highlighting the last 50 years at Vandenberg. But I'm not talking about history in a "Look at what we've done" sense; it's history as in "I'm a part of this heritage." 

It's a heritage that is more than 60 years old. What a wonderful feeling to know that I'm a part of something so powerful, so innovative, so professional. And going to a celebration of that heritage, an Air Force or anniversary ball, is a great reminder of that - not just because of the videos, photos or guest speakers, but those people who attend. 

In attendance at the recent ball were retired chief master sergeants and generals, people who had long and illustrious careers in the Air Force and who served at Vandenberg sometime during their careers. Hearing their tales of wars won, technologies discovered, history changed forever ... it made me proud. I was proud to be able to stand in the same room with these people, proud to be continuing this tradition of excellence and proud to be serving in the world's greatest Air Force. 

We really are a part of this air and space power tradition. Yes, the uniforms have changed here and there, bases and faces have come and went, but you, me, all of us have raised our right hand and sworn to protect this country, just as our military forebears did. We still sing the Air Force Song and salute the same U.S. flag. We still challenge ourselves and conventional thought to create technologies that allow us to win wars. 

And we still have times of fellowship and remembrance like an Air Force Ball. 

"So why did you go, man?" my friend asked, repeating the question. 

Again I opened my mouth to answer, to go through the thoughts that had just flitted through my mind. But instead of a long, overblown response, what came out what simple and all-encompassing and true. 

"Because I'm proud to be an Airman."