Many people are unaware that the US Air Force was born from the Army. It evolved over many years until finally on September 18, 1947 the airborne unit of the Army grew up, spread it’s wings, and flew away. Like many family members, there is a love hate love relationship. The siblings I grew up with joined the Army at one point, but I chose to Aim High!
Now, many years later I found myself on a a beautiful fall day sitting across from my friend discussing our past military experiences: Army vs Air Force. This conversation, however, unlike past rivalry jabs, was different. I’m not even sure how we started, but we talked about why and how we each joined the service and it turned a little deeper than I anticipated.
We swapped stories of looking to do something more, to learn more, to be more than what we had experienced to that point. It occurred to me that they were highly similar as they were vastly different.
For me it was a way to escape a small town and discover what I wanted beyond the vague “I want to travel” dream that had intrigued me since I was little. It was a way to move on, move to a different part of the world, to learn, to grow.
I learned that we joined the service at relatively the same time and just as oddly,left the military within 6 months of each other. We discussed the survival tactics of escaping from small hometown life to the wars we participated in. The tours while different supported the same efforts: diving for cover, sweating it out in a charcoal suit in the summer desert, the claustrophobic gas masks. I saw more deserts in the nine years I was in the Air Force than I ever thought I would. The memories from Korea to Britain to Saudi Arabia to Turkey came back in an instant — like it was yesterday. There was no finger pointing or jabs just two military vets learning, comparing, listening.
It’s not often that I have the opportunity to have a conversation with someone who not only understood my experiences, the complexities and feelings, spoken and unspoken, of military life and identified with it. I didn’t have to add or remove details of military service. The terms and tours were understood.
I don’t often speak of my military experiences nor do I don’t know many vets. It’s at the rare times like these that I find myself remembering things I had long ago forgotten.The images and the feelings just pop into my head. My service to my country started out as an escape for me and transformed me into the person I am today. I grew up, I grew wise, I grew.
I am grateful to have had the chance to serve my country, grateful to have met many people — foreign and domestic — to have seen the world. I am grateful that I had the chance to exchange military thoughts, memories and, I think, deepen our friendship forged through military service. One more great benefit that the Air Force has given me.
The sibling rivalry between services will always be there, but this past weekend I learned that the bond between vets have no boundaries.
Thank you for all that have served, are serving, and will serve. Aim High!