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The Privilege of Service

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

“Why am I doing this?”

It was all I could think as I pulled up to the main gate here for the first time last Veteran’s Day. I had just arrived at my first assignment since leaving the Air Force Reserve for the active-duty component a few weeks prior, and I felt like I should be excited to be starting a new chapter of my life and career. But as the security forces defender waved me onto base, all I could do was wonder what I had gotten myself into.

You see, going active was never part of the plan. I made the decision to enlist in the reserves because I wanted a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree and a civilian career. And for about two years after I enlisted, that’s exactly what I went after. I was going to a familiar college in the area I grew up in and doing a lot of the same things I did before the military with the same people. Even when I was called up to active duty with my unit, I was at home every weekend. I was content. Or at least I thought I was.

As I drove through base that night, I tried to remember why exactly I decided to become a full-time Airman. Sure, I did it to keep my military career afloat (the reserves were great to me, but I needed more than I was getting if I was going to progress in my profession), and I did truly have a passion for the Air Force and my job as a photojournalist. 

But when I gave those reasons to my family and friends, I got a lot of puzzled looks and concerned questions, and I began to realize my explanation didn’t make much sense. I had good things going for me at home; what was I gonna get out of a military career that I couldn’t get on the outside? And why did I love the Air Force enough to give everything else up for it?

I couldn’t answer the questions that were fueling my anxiety at that point, but it didn’t take me long to start realizing them. Over the past year, I’ve had incredible experiences documenting the missions and telling the stories at Cannon. I’ve been pushed outside my comfort zone and grown as a person time and time again. And I’ve enjoyed the lifestyle and benefits that the Air Force has to offer. But none of that comes close to being the best part about my job.

It’s often said that it’s the people, not the aircraft, that make the Air Force great. It can be a cliche to be sure, but even when I put the mission aside and look at it from my own personal experiences as a junior enlisted Airman, I believe that sentiment to be true wholeheartedly. 

After all, it wasn’t an aircraft that inspired me to join the military. It was both of my grandfathers, one of my grandmothers and my dad, the first wingmen I ever had. There’s never been an aircraft that embraced me, gave me the tools I needed to succeed and were there for me when I needed them, but there have been plenty of non-commissioned officers and field grade officers who have, especially since I've been here. No aircraft’s life story has ever tugged on my heartstrings and motivated me like many an Airman’s have. Documenting an exercise, folding a flag for a fallen veteran’s widow, giving back to the local community; there’s a lot of people in my Cannon family that I’ve done those things with, but no aircraft.

It’s safe to say I found the answer to the questions I had at this time last year. It’s fitting that it happens to be on Veteran’s day as well, because this is the perfect opportunity to say what I have wanted to for a while, and that is thank you. Thank you to both everyone who came before me and everyone serves with me today. You are what makes the rollercoaster ride of triumph and struggle that is the military worth it for me. You convinced me to take the leap and leave my plan behind to pursue a higher calling. You are why I consider it to be one of the utmost privileges of my life to serve.