On a cold January morning in a Midwestern state long ago, a young man took the oath of enlistment to join the United States Air Force.

The decision to join the military was based on his commitment to make something significant of his life and to provide for his bride of a week. Having never boarded an airplane, he accompanied other young men and women as they flew south to San

Antonio, Texas. Destination, Lackland Air Force Base, “The Gateway to the Air Force.”

Excitement and anticipation filled the hearts of each young adult as they took their seat on the chartered jumbo jet. With time to daydream during the flight, each one knew their life was about to radically change. The unknown can provoke riveting possibilities. Typically, the worst-case scenario is imagined.

The welcome at the Air Force Base was not what they were expecting. Rather than a congenial welcome, the recruits were herded like cattle to the waiting transportation. They were quickly deboarded from the aircraft onto awaiting military buses.

Once seated, the quietness of the dark tarmac was abruptly interrupted by the loud trumpeting voices of menacing Air Force personnel.

At the front of the bus stood a man with a heavily starched uniform and a Smokey Bear hat. He began barking commands to the timid group. Little did they know at the time, it was going to be a long, loud night! Visions of hitting the bed and starting training late in the morning was not what the Drill Instructor had planned for his new trainees. Welcome to Lackland Air Force Base! The recruits were now property of the United States military.

The buses transported them to the Reception Center, where each new recruit was separated into groups. Once the groups were separated, back onto the buses they went. The first stop was to receive their allotment of clothing and boots.

Soon they would arrive the training barracks, where they would be sent to their dorm and be assigned their bed and clothing locker. They were issued a four-inch training manual and ordered to memorize it. The psychological tests began before the physical and intellectual.

That night would turn into day and the complete training regimen would begin. The young airmen would learn numerous skills over the course of a couple intense months. Upon graduation, they would be prepared for technical school and a new career in the United States Air Force. Pride filled the heart of each new airman.

The young man who enlisted in the Midwestern town would soon be reunited with his bride. Their military journey would last eight years, yet be filled with a lifetime’s worth of experiences, lessons learned and milestones reached. That young man, of course, was me.

I am a proud veteran of the United States Air Force. My pride continues to grow through the years as I grow in appreciation of our great Republic and the principles of freedom we all enjoy. I am proud of all my brothers and sisters who wore the uniform, who served their nation proudly and fought on foreign soil. I am proud of those who willingly laid down their lives for their country. To serve one’s nation is an enormous achievement, worthy of respect and appreciation.

Today our nation recognizes its veterans. Veteran’s Day 2021!

Let us acknowledge the patriotism, courage, sacrifices and commitment of our finest citizens. Let us honor them in our communities with special ceremonies. Let us celebrate our veterans. Our veterans are our true American heroes. May God bless their legacies!

Have a great week and remember, God loves YOU!

Reach Jon at jtshonebarger @gmail.com.

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