I’m here at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and it’s past late but my mind is racing and I need to get some thoughts down. I’ve been around some pretty incredible people since I’ve arrived at Air Force Special Operations Command in July. And now I’m about to embark on an adventure I won’t soon forget with 18 special operations Airmen who are trying very hard to preserve and honor the memory of their fallen comrades.
But, this Memorial March isn’t just about honoring the men, it’s also about educating the American people about the sacrifices these Airmen are willing to make on their behalf. I don’t know how many of you know about the blood, sweat and tears it takes to become an Air Force Special Tactics Airmen. You can truly compare these men to Navy Seals and Army Green Berets. In fact, these guys often work right alongside them.
I heard a great story the other day from a reporter. He talked about the pararescuemen, or PJs, and the first time he truly understood how important they are. He interviewed the father of a Marine. The Marine was rescued by an Air Force Pararescueman and was in recovery in the hospital. The Marine told his father all about the PJ and how amazed he was with the determination and bravery the PJ had to fly into extremely hostile environments to rescue the injured men and women on the battlefield. He told his Dad that if it wasn’t for that PJ, he wouldn’t have made it out at all. Unfortunately the Marine ended up passing away but his Dad got some precious time with his son before he lost him. The reporter was in awe that a Marine thought so highly of this Air Force PJ. He told me you know you’ve got to be some kind of special for the Marines to brag about you.
And just as incredible are the combat controllers, or CCT, the other special tactics specialty we’re honoring during the Memorial March. These are the men on the ground calling in air support. They are constantly in harms way but I have yet to hear one complain about their job. Instead, they thrive on what they do. If you haven’t read, there is an Airmen, Staff Sgt. Robert Gutierrez, who will be presented the Air Force Cross on Oct. 27. It is the highest honor that the Air Force can bestow. He is the fifth Airman to receive the cross and only the second who is a living recipient. But he will be the first to tell you that there are many more like him.
These people are dedicated beyond words. They are true heroes and I’m so proud to be a small part of their community and help them tell their story.
Speaking of telling their story, I’d like your help. If you know a PJ or CCT, or have been saved by one, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me about your experience as I’d love to post those stories in this blog. And please, if you’re along our route, show up and give these men a strong handshake or pat on the back. They’re worth every second of your time!