Patriots for a lifetime

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kali L. Gradishar
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
In preparation for the Sept. 11 Patriot's Day Parade in Spokane, I found myself marching on the lot across from the White House. The sun blazed down on the backs of the flight in formation, the heat permeated our uniforms and our skin became moist with perspiration.

Falling into the steps with ease, as though I had been marching since birth, I let my mind drift to another time and another place. The sound of the 92nd Security Forces first sergeant still ringing in my ears, my thoughts drifted to my rebirth as an Airman in San Antonio, Texas.

I closed my eyes slowly and reopened them to the sights of the parade grounds, marching down the Bomb Run. I remember the smell of the freshly cut grass as I carried myself with the pride and dignity I gained from living through the weeks of vigorous training.

My mind meandered back to the present, but my arms were still swaying six inches to the front and three to the rear, my step was 24 inches, and I had my dress and cover to the person beside and in front of me.

It has not been long since that final march in Basic Military Training, so I still carry that same pride I felt. I wonder how many other Airmen still feel the earnest honor when they hear the Air Force song, or how many servicemembers swell with pride at the playing of our National Anthem.

This is an especially significant day, a day that all should feel that honor and pride deep in their bones. This Sept. 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the attacks on our nation that claimed so many lives, but in return brought a sense of patriotism and the desire to fight for the freedoms that can be so easily taken for granted.

Sept. 11 of each year is designated as Patriot's Day. Signed into law Dec. 18, 2001, it has been marked as a day to remember those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it should also be a day to remember those who have given their lives as warriors in this Global War on Terror.

It is because of these men and women that we have a place to call home. And it is because of the Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, Marine, and Coast Guardsmen dedicated to preserving the freedom we enjoy that we are able to walk the streets in the attire we choose, attend religious services of our choice, praise whatever God we so choose and state what we believe.

We are able to do these things because of a greater sacrifice - a sacrifice that should be revered above all. It is the sacrifice of our own lives so that others may endure.

Take heed of this day of remembrance. Fly your flags at half-staff. Take a moment to bow your head in silence in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11, and also in tribute to those who came before you, those who stand by your side in the midst of combat, and in recognition of those who will follow in your footsteps in service to this great nation.