Who we are and why we serve
By Maj Karl E. Ott, 366th Medical Support Squadron Deputy Commander / Published February 15, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Patriotism. Family history. Call to duty. College tuition. Service academy or ROTC obligation. To get away from home. To see the world. Self-improvement. These are but a few of the reasons why many Americans volunteer to serve in the military. We serve to have the opportunities to fly, treat the sick and wounded, drive tanks or submarines, provide humanitarian relief, or bring stability to a war-torn nation. Some serve to
ensure the liberties and freedoms we enjoy will remain for future generations. We are active duty, reservists, and guardsmen.
We come from immigrant families who felt an obligation for the opportunities offered to them as a new United States citizen. We come from families whose Airman, Marine, Sailor, Soldier, or Coast Guardsman is but the latest generation to follow in their parent's or other relatives footsteps. We come from families who have no history of military service. We are as varied as the faces of every Airman. We come from all walks of life. Working class and well-off. From families whose parents worked two jobs and sacrificed so that their children could have a better life. We come from families where we wanted to make it on our own. From every state and territory. From towns with populations measured in the hundreds to cities with millions of citizens.
For those of us who enlisted or took an oath of commission prior to Sept. 11, 2001, we joined knowing that at some point we might deploy. For those who volunteered after Sept. 11th, they joined knowing full well the probability of deploying was much higher, particularly to a forward operating base well outside the wire. Some put lives on hold. Others left comfortable and well-paying jobs. And still they volunteered. Many have missed birthdays, graduations, little league baseball seasons, piano recitals, anniversaries, and weddings. Some have returned home to see their newborn child for the first time. Some are still deployed. Some will not return.
For me, it was family history. According to an article in our hometown newspaper someone in our family has served in the military continuously since 1910. My father and his brother served briefly in the 1950's. Another uncle served in World War II, Korea, and later flew special operations missions in Vietnam. As a teenager he told me war stories (declassified of course) about missions in Southeast Asia and the professionalism of the aircrews. My mother's older brother served in the Navy during World War II and my brother spent a career flying F-16's. All of these people had an influence on my decision to serve. Who or what has influenced your decision?
The story of our military is the story of our nation. We all work together toward a common goal with each of us bringing a different set of skills to provide for our national defense. Regardless if you served a career or one term, you have served your nation. And of that, you can be proud.