Our military spouse…the military’s “Twelfth Man,” our “Twelfth Airman”

  • Published
  • By Col. Brian Newberry
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Commander
"Because we are ready to play for our team if needed...we are all the 12th Man of the Team!"
--Texas A&M University fight song

With the Seattle Seahawks Superbowl win, "Twelfth Man" references have been replete this year. The Seahawk fan base takes immense pride in their ability to generate crowd noise during home games and be the differencemaker for beating opposing teams as the twelfth man strengthening a football team's eleven person offensive or defensive squad.

The Texas A&M Aggies also claim reference to the "Twelfth Man" dating back to a tradition started in 1922 where fans stand the entire game waiting to go in if needed. On May 9, the second Friday of May, we celebrate military spouses day (and month), originally initiated by presidential proclamation in 1984. One day in the year is certainly not enough to celebrate our spouses' contributions to our storied red, white and blue military legacy of excellence -- May is our spouses' month! As I reflect back on 23 years of military services, I cannot think of a better analogy for our military spouses than being the "Twelfth Man" for our military or in reality our Twelfth Airman.

I recently attended an event where a retired Air Force colonel, who served in the 1960s, spoke about a move to Taiwan to be a Defense Attaché. It was nonchalantly described how he came home, told his spouse they were moving across the Pacific. After, probably much surprise and chagrin and maybe a few choice words, together they accepted the assignment and made a difference for our Air Force.

Today, that assignment would be a challenge for even the most adventuresome Airmen family. Back in the 1960s, I can only imagine how much of an adventure it must have been with no internet or good communication capability to come to grips with the exotic and far away destination. This example is but one of many I can recite on how our spouses stand on the sideline supporting our military career, but if they are not there, the game is lost. What is most important to note, however, is that our "Twelfth Airman" is not part of a game -- since 1776, defending America can be a matter of life or death.

In my May 2014 military spouse proclamation, I recount how noble our military spouses truly are: "We know them as our neighbors and friends, colleagues and coaches, teachers and nurses. They move from duty station to duty station, picking up their families and careers whenever their country asks. They keep their households running while dealing with the strain of deployment. They support our wounded warriors, preserve the legacies of our fallen, and find ways to give back to our country daily. If our "Twelfth Airman" is not there, our other eleven Airmen are not able to focus on the task at hand...defending freedom.

So, this May, Team Fairchild loudly proclaims its gratitude for our "Twelfth Airman" for standing up for America. They are integral to us winning more than the Superbowl, they are central to us winning the war on terrorism and all the other vital missions we as a vital team are engaged in 24/7, 365 days a year.

Indeed, here at Fairchild, our mission set is challenging. Quite simply, we provide global reach for America and airpower needs our tanker assist to dominate the high ground. Deployment is our middle name and answering the call our watchword. Both require the "Twelfth Airman," the "Twelfth Man," to never sit on the sidelines or in the stands. Patience, toughness and courage are prerequisites for any military spouse. I am always fond of paraphrasing what former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman, General Jones, said that there no courageous Airmen without courageous families. What is even more amazing about our military spouse is they often do not realize the sacrifice required when they become part of the military, and yet, they continue to wholeheartedly support our just cause.

On the 30th anniversary recognizing our military spouses, Team Fairchild offers its profound thanks for our military spouses' patriotism. They wear our nation's uniform proudly -- it may not look exactly like our Airmen's battledress or flightsuit but it does have the number 12 stitched on the back. They are our enduring "Twelfth Airman!"