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Reflect on your service over this holiday season

An American flag waves at Ground Zero, formerly the World Trade Center, New York City, N.Y., Sept. 14, 2001.

An American flag waves at Ground Zero, formerly the World Trade Center, New York City, N.Y., Sept. 14, 2001.

As the new year approaches, and we get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I encourage each of you to purposely take time to reflect on why you are serving our country. All too often, we are so focused on the next event, tasker or big “thing” that needs our attention that we forget to take the time to remember why we are serving. Recently, I had an important encounter that forced me to reflect on why I continue to put on my uniform each day and why the mission that Team Dover accomplishes each day matters.

The 436th Mission Support Group command team traveled to New York City for a professional development day at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on Dec. 6.

Lauren Daly, the National September 11 Memorial and Museum senior manager for government and community affairs, sponsored the team and provided a personalized tour. The memorial recounted the events of the day, from the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center to the attack on the Pentagon to the heroes that gave their lives in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, thwarting a likely attack on our nation’s capital. The story the memorial told was powerful. It was gut-wrenching to be reminded of the horrors of that day, brought on by terrorist attacks on our country. I was furious.

Despite this, I was encouraged by the unity our country displayed after the attack. I was touched by the many stories about first responders and how they gave their lives to save complete strangers from the burning buildings. Many of these first responders have been plagued with illnesses since, and have essentially lost their lives due to the lingering effects of being near “Ground Zero” for so many days. In fact, the memorial is being expanded to recognize those impacted by these illnesses.

I was equally proud of the U.S. military response after the attack. A good friend of mine received a Purple Heart in his effort to rescue the wounded from the attack at the Pentagon. My wife worked to deploy B-1B Lancers from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, to drop bombs in retaliation. There are thousands of stories of heroism that continue to inspire.

After the visit to the memorial, the team reflected on and exchanged stories of where we were on that infamous day. I was deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, which quickly became a hub of activity as the base hosted the Combined Air Operations Center, where the air campaign was directed.

The Logistics Readiness Squadron commander, Maj. Kevin Etherton, stated he was in college and, because of 9/11 and the personal impact it had on him, he was spurred to join the Air Force.

Regardless of what each of us was doing that day, we all agreed that, because of these attacks, our country and our lives would never be the same.

The visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum reinvigorated and reinforced my commitment to continue to serve our country. I am humbled to have the opportunity to serve at Dover AFB, where our mission continues to play an integral part in the war on terror. I am reminded that some enlisting in today’s Air Force were not even alive during 9/11. It is important to ensure that we “never forget.”

I am fortunate that the visit to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum put me into a position to reflect on service. This reflection reignited my flame of passion to continue to serve and reminded me why I come to work each day. Please take time over the holiday season to reflect on why you serve our country, whether you serve as an Airman or a civilian or are supporting as a dependent. Why are you serving?