Be thankful for your Air Force family

  • Published
  • By Maj. Douglas Shahan
  • 39th Communications Squadron
I received an e-mail at the end of February from one of my best friends. Before I tell you about the e-mail, I should tell you a bit about my friend. We were both commissioned on the same day in 1995 and met on the first day of my first assignment in the Air Force. Despite going separate ways more than 10 years ago, we've always stayed in touch. Our friendship has traversed multiple deployments, two weddings (we were in each other's weddings), two assignments (we were stationed together again five years ago), and the birth of his two daughters and my son. Our wives have become friends and my son has a crush on both his daughters. Both of our families are the typical Air Force family.

For the uninitiated, I feel I should explain what I mean when I say we are the typical Air Force family, but first back to that e-mail: It seems my friend, an Air Force marathoner and "Fit, Focused and Fighting" squadron commander, was told he had a brain tumor. It was obviously a shock, but that diagnosis doesn't mean his marathon days are over. It meant brain surgery, possibly radiation or chemo-therapy, some recovery time and then back to business. But, believe me, being diagnosed with a brain tumor is scary stuff.

My friend's Air Force family responded rapidly to the news. He had friends calling from all over the world, including a daily call from Turkey.

He commands a tenant unit on an Air Force base and was visited in the hospital by his host wing commander. I saw on his Facebook page a comment from a current wing commander, whom he must know from a previous assignment, asking what he could do to help. His next-door neighbor, another Air Force member, watched his kids for days while he went into the hospital preparing for surgery. His boss traveled from the Pentagon to come see him at his home after surgery. On his first day back to work, everyone in his squadron was wearing Kevlar helmets as a humorous way of showing they were in this with him.

This is what the Air Force family does and this is what we are celebrating during this "Year of the Air Force Family." You may not realize it now, but the friends you making at your current assignment are not merely your next door neighbors, your fellow dorm residents, or your travel buds. You are building your Air Force family.

These are the people you will see again at other assignments. These are people you will keep up with on Facebook. These are the people you will ask to stand with you at your wedding. And these are the people who will be there for you in your time of crisis. At those times, you will be especially thankful for the Air Force family.

My friend was overwhelmed by the response from his Air Force family, and I am thankful he will be part of my Air Force family for a very long time.