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NEWS | Nov. 25, 2013

Diamond Tip - Honor US not me

By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Sparlin 437th Maintenance Squadron Assistant first sergeant

Just a few days before Veteran's Day, I overheard a young airman say, "If they want to honor me for Veteran's Day they should give me a free breakfast . I should not have to get up early and march in my blues."

I am often "that guy" who will correct a member if they are not within standards or redirect their vector if they veer off with a haphazard comment; however on this occasion I was "shocked and awed" by his comment and unsure how to approach the situation. I pondered the airman's position and tried to possibly see his point of view. I ended up leaving without saying a word, but wrestled with the opinion this Airman voiced. Did he actually have a valid point? Was this "our" day to do with whatever we wanted to?

Veteran's Day came and went as it does each year and the stories aired on TV and the radio with people reminding others to thank those who have served both past and present. A few tear jerking stories were made public; stories reminding people of the sacrifices military members and their families have made and will continue to make to guard our freedom. It allowed the public to reflect on sacrifices such as missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays as well as remember the many that have paid the ultimate price.

As I listened and watched these stories, I thought about the young airman who made the comments that day. I began to have a rush of varying emotions that included frustration, sadness and even disappointment. I did not feel this way because of the comment regarding a free meal; rather it was because he was not acting as a true professional. He was being selfish and did not see the importance of what and who he represented, both past and present.

Millions of men and women have worn the various uniforms of the military services throughout the history of the United States. They have helped shape and mold not only our country, but the entire world. The U.S. military is a proud and exclusive organization.
The one percent of the U.S. population who serve in it epitomizes the title of professionals. I do not mean professionals to describe a person in a suit and tie who works in a high-rise office building; or grown men who play a game and get paid for it ... I mean professionals in the sense of being selfless and serving for the greater good rather than just themselves.

We who serve in this profession-of-arms have taken an oath to defend our country with our lives. With that obligation and responsibility we as professionals are expected to adhere to higher standards of conduct. We have our own set of laws that we must follow and if we violate these articles we can be held accountable for those violations, including the ultimate punishment. That is what makes us professionals, that is what separates us, and that is why so many in the civilian sector respect and appreciate what we do.

As servicemembers many of us have been thanked by a civilian at some point in our career for our service. How do you respond? Do you say you're welcome or thank you? I respond with my pleasure or my honor. It may seem awkward and uncomfortable sometimes, but as a professional, I understand these folks recognize and appreciate what we do. Serving our country is an honor that not everyone can, will, or is able to do. These citizens are not thanking you directly; rather they are going out of their way to thank every member who has served this great nation through you. You are not necessarily a name to them rather a symbol of this countries great military that has sacrificed to defend it from all enemies.

Each one of us represents every servicemember, past and present, when we step outside wearing this uniform. So please, when the opportunity presents itself and you have the honor of marching through the streets of any town in the U.S.where civilians, retirees and veterans will thank you, jump at it. You will see America in all her glory standing along the sidewalks, waving flags, thanking you, thanking their father who died in Vietnam, their brother who lost his leg in Iraq and their daughter who lost her sight in Afghanistan defending this great nation. When you march proudly with your chest out and your head high, observe those folks lining the sidewalks. Look for that 80-year old veteran who struggles to lift himself out of his wheelchair and stands respectfully as the colors pass by. He salutes with great admiration and reverence only to then slowly lower himself back into his chair and wipe a single tear of pride from his weathered face. That is why you march, because you are selfless as a true professional. You are not marching because you have to; you are marching because you are proud of who and what you represent as a member of the world's greatest military.