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Remembering Sacrifices of Veterans and Families

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Herb Hanson
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Command Chief
Saturday, we honor those who have gone before us and have sacrificed so much for our country. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a good cross section of veterans from the Air Force and Army Air Corps. They meet every Friday at the K & W restaurant and they run the gamut from men who came in before and after World War II.

Retired Col. Vincent Fonke enlisted in the Air Corps in 1940 and later became a B-17 pilot. He was shot down over Germany, became a prisoner of war and eventually retired from Pope. Included in that distinguished group of veterans is Joe Stillwell, the first individual promoted to the rank of chief master sergeant at Pope. We have some of his promotion documents on display at the Pope Club, where they have been for the past several years.

It's nice getting together with these veterans who fought from World War II to Korea to Vietnam, exchange stories and mostly just listen to the experiences they went through. They blazed trails to make life easier for us.

When people talk about the greatest generation often people are speaking about their era. Some argue it is the current generation that is fighting the Global War on Terrorism. To me, each generation rises to the challenge presented it. The folks who fought in World War I and II, Korea, and those who fought in Vietnam rose to the challenge. Our Vietnam veterans hold a place very dear to me because that was not as popular. They didn't have the public support that was enjoyed during World War II or even today. Yet, they suffered and soldiered through. That's very impressive to me. The lack of services available to their families also presented a challenge. We have a fantastic support network available to our families whenever our members deploy or on a short tour to a remote location.

I remember when my uncle was in Vietnam, my aunt and their three kids were just out there between 1969 and 1970. There was very little support available to help them get through that year. Whereas now, we just returned 180 Airmen return from the desert. Look at what we provide to the families and the members in terms of what we do to ease the time when their loved one is away: free vehicle safety checks, oil change for the spouse of a deployed member, give parents a break and Hearts Apart, which is a great support group that is designed to assist our Air Force spouses. Our Airmen and Family Readiness Center helps our members and their families adjust through morale calls.

Our pre and post deployment support has also received great reviews. After 30 days, post deployment interviews are available to check on folks to see if they are having difficulty readjusting to home or work life, or reintegrating back into society. We will get them the support necessary for our Airmen and their families, which are our most precious resource. We do a lot now that wasn't even done back in 2002 and 2003. That is why we want to honor our families during Military Appreciation Week.