One Airman’s commitment to Air Force heritage, reflection

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. William Banton
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

With the sun waning and long shadows overtaking Memorial Lake, an Airman stands at parade rest with his unit waiting for the familiar sound of the bugle call for retreat followed by the national anthem signaling the end of another day.

Two weeks earlier, on Oct. 1 this same Airmen, Staff Sgt. Daniel Caraglio, 20th Medical Group mental health technician, was named Military Citizen of the Year by the Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce. An honor that came as a surprise to him, but definitely not to those that have served beside him.

In his recommendation letter to the selection committee, Lt. Col. Benjamin Gantt, 20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander, described Caraglio as a personification of esprit de corps to his fellow Airmen. Gantt also pronounced Caraglio as a model of the Air Force’s Core Values and a person with a dedication epitomizing what a military citizen should be.

Jillian Huckeba, Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce Vice president of programs and events, described this award as a way to showcase the unity of “Team Shaw” and “Team Sumter” as one community.

“This award is one of the ways we show our appreciation for that community partnership,” said Huckeba. “Caraglio’s dedication and demonstration of service before self is not only admirable but also greatly appreciated. He has and continues to enrich the lives of his fellow soldiers as well as our local veterans.”

Caraglio, arrived in 2016 as a 32-year-old airman first class – 14 years older than his average peer – with a determination and reverence that serving in the military should be more than just a job.

“Military heritage has always called to me,” said Caraglio. “I knew that I would have regret looking back in life if I didn’t serve; it’s one of the reasons I joined.”

Since his arrival Caraglio has been actively involved with community organizations including the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, Quilts of Valor Foundation and the Alice Drive Baptist Church Stitches of Love Quilt Ministry. However, there was one particular endeavor that he undertook alone as a way to pay homage to the Airmen that came before him.

Shortly after arriving Caraglio paid a visit to the Shaw Fallen Airmen Memorial. He turned this visit into a monthly ritual; a time to reflect on his service and pay tribute to those that came before him.

Humbly, Caraglio explains “it’s not a dialed in full on retreat ceremony, it’s just me standing at parade rest for a half hour - rain, sleet or shine.”

Little did he know, this individual act of reverence would soon catch the attention of 20th Fighter Wing leadership.

After being tasked to give a routine pre-deployment briefing, Caraglio decided to break the ice by telling the deploying Airman he would be thinking about them and their family members during his monthly visit to the memorial.

“I was pulled off stage after my briefing by Brig. Gen. Daniel Lasica, former 20th FW commander, and he asked me to make sure he knew every time I was going out there,” said Caraglio. “He was really surprised that I took that on myself … I think it was because it was outside the box, something different and I just think he thought it was a good idea.”

Caraglio said that Lasica later publicly acknowledged he was the inspiration for bringing back a formal monthly retreat ceremony at the instillation garrison flag pole, a ceremony which carried over to Brig. Gen. Derek O’Malley’s time as 20th FW commander.

“I never did this for recognition and I feel like that’s one of the reasons why I have been recognized, because they know it’s not my objective,” he said.

Tech. Sgt. Justin Sheldon, 20th Medical Group mental health supervisor, shared how Caraglio’s selfless dedication has affected moral throughout his unit. “To have somebody who takes ownership of something and say ‘even though you may not have the same expression (of heritage) as I, just know that I am thinking about you,’ that goes a long way,” you can definitely see this leadership in the Airmen and how they have grown.”

Sheldon personally understood Caraglio’s dedication to honoring Airmen past and present.

“I had done honor guard before and I could see how I felt translated exactly to him as well,” said Sheldon. “It’s definitely a genuine feeling of respect that someone has taken their own personal time out of their day to honor someone else. It is pretty special.”

Now, as Caraglio and his family say their goodbyes and prepare to move to their next duty station, he takes one last opportunity to observe retreat. This time is different though, he is not alone.

The bugle call to retreat begins to wail as Caraglio and the Airmen of the 20th MDG mental health clinic present arms. The sun sets, painting the sky a warm hue of tangerine as the unit celebrates Caraglio’s time at Shaw.

The Greater Sumter Chamber of Commerce gala annually celebrates and recognizes the achievements of civic leaders whose inspiring actions have made a significant contribution during the past year. Other awards given include Educators of the Year, Business Person of the Year, Non-Profit Business of the Year and Young Professional of the Year.