PRESIDIO OF MONTERY, Calif. --
As you know, Monday was Memorial Day and I enjoyed my day off from work by having a cookout with my family and friends. While enjoying the day, I recalled standing in formation with hundreds of other Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines during our base's Memorial Day Ceremony. The guest speaker referenced something Abraham Lincoln said about "the last full measure of devotion." Turns out, this quote comes from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain."
This reminds me of the commitment my fellow service members and I have made to our Nation and each other...that is, that we are willing to lay down our own lives if needed to defend our Nation and the values upon which it was founded. We serve a higher purpose than our own selves. I think John Stuart Mill explains it best:
"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
It turns out that my wingmen are those "better" men and women. So I took a moment this weekend to reflect upon the commitment we have made to our Nation and each other. Then I realized that our spouses and kids have joined in that commitment with us. I remembered that even now, members of our Wing and our base serve in combat zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And I remembered the service members and their families who have already made the ultimate sacrifice...those who have already given their "last full measure of devotion."
Interestingly, we took a whole day this same weekend to learn about safety. Coincidence? It struck me that though we willingly give of ourselves in war, it is senseless for us to risk our lives because of poor risk management at home. My commander asked me to join him in protecting ourselves, our families and our Wingmen from the devastating consequences of suicide and irresponsible operation of motor vehicles; to employ assertive, prudent risk management in all of our summer fun activities; and, as always, if we consume alcohol, to do so responsibly. Apparently, we lost more Airmen last summer due to these things than in combat.
Mom, thanks for supporting my service during a time of war. I now know that you must worry sometimes that I may be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. If that time comes, know that I do so willingly, for there are some things more important than my "own personal safety." But also know that summer fun and convenience are not among those things, and that I will take care of myself, my family and my Wingmen while serving our Nation.