An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Commentaries : Display
NEWS | Nov. 8, 2023

Falling in Love with Stories

By Airman 1st Class Thomas Hansford 1st Combat Camera Squadron

A long time ago, I fell in love with stories. I grew attached to the way a couple of letters on a page or lights on a screen could affect someone so deeply. It is astounding the way a person, connected so wholeheartedly with a story, could re-watch, read or view something countless times and it only causes one to enjoy it more. That is the definition of timeless. 

As a young kid, I used to play games. They were not the standard sports and kid activities normal children play, but massive escapades of pretend. My brother and I would create entire worlds in our heads and embark upon epic journeys in our backyard. From defending our rebel base from imperialist aggressors, to building a leather-bound tent from branches and twine in the creek, we always had a story behind our games. When the day was over and the sun had set through the trees, we would hear the call of our parents to return home. The next day when school let out, we would return to those worlds and pick up right where we left off. 

Needless to say, I developed a very active imagination in my youth. I did, however, have a brief period where I played little league baseball. I wasn’t very good at it, and because of that fact I spent most of my time in the outfield where the ball rarely made an appearance. My parents have always said I spent more time “fighting dragons” than playing any actual baseball. 

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months and eventually years. I found out very quickly that it wasn’t socially acceptable for a 16 year old to take his lightsaber into the backyard after school and save the galaxy. Disclaimer: I did, however, throw societal norms to the wind and continue to do that sort of thing until the age of 19.

It was about this time that I realized what I truly loved about playing pretend: to feel something more. Movies, books, TV shows, video games… they all offered the ability to experience a new world. I loved watching a movie and asking myself, “Who would I be in this universe?” This is the start to developing a deep connection with a story. 

It was in my senior year of high school when I was awarded a fantastic opportunity. My mother, being an employee of the high school I went to, took over the directorial position of the theater program. I pitched her an idea: an original play, written by a student and her very own son. She told me to write a script and then go from there. 

So I did. 

I poured my heart and soul into a western about an aging lawman facing down the prowess and arrogance of youth. Not only was it accepted and performed for an audience, I was given the opportunity to direct and star as well. I fell in love with stories at that moment: reading them, writing them, analyzing them and for very brief moments, feeling so connected to something existing only in the ethosphere. These things gave me, and anyone else who loses themselves in fiction, an extreme sense of fulfillment. 

I joined the Air Force at 19 years old. Through near happenstance and no particularly strenuous effort of my own, I ended up in a job that allowed me to tell stories on a daily basis. United States Air Force Public Affairs Specialists are journalists, photojournalists, videographers and ambassadors to the civilian populus as a whole. We foster trust and transparency between the Armed Forces and the people we seek to protect. The power an image can have when someone sees it is monumental. The informative quality of a well-put-together video can, in a moment of need, make a pivotal difference. Public Affairs and the work they do to control what story is being told is a vital aspect of the Air Force’s mission in today’s day and age. 

Being completely honest, I do not get to create original characters and events in the stories I tell for the Air Force. I do not have the right to dramatize the intricacies between the people involved and write their story the way that it plays out in my brain. Nevertheless, I am wholeheartedly thankful to have the privilege to tell the stories of the men and women whom I serve alongside. 

Then one day when I take off the uniform, as all service members inevitably do, I will return to writing my own stories the way I want to tell them. I will tailor the scenes and conversations to make the audience believe they were there, if only for just a moment. I will use my experiences and the things I have learned through my experience as a military storyteller to share those moments with the world…

…because a long time ago I fell in love with stories.