What it means to be a first term Airman

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christian Marquez
  • 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
As a first term Airman, I've come to realize I'm now responsible for the well being of my family, friends and my country. It fills me with a huge sense of pride. I chose to serve my country at a time of war, which requires a great deal of courage from anyone. As a first term Airman, I also get to experience many new things.

As my first term of my military career begins, I want to go out and learn whatever it is the Air Force wants me to learn. The quicker and better I learn my trade, the faster I can contribute to the Air Force mission and responsible for the safety and well being of this great nation, including my wife, children, mother, siblings and the rest of my entire family.

I'm proud to be a first term Airman. I never realized how proud I felt until a month and a half ago when I went home for the first time after technical school. Even before I was home, I felt proud when people kept staring at me and the uniform I wore. At first, I couldn't understand why, but one person approached me at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and said, "Thank you, young man, for what you do for me. You are a hero at such a young age." When that man walked away, I felt goose bumps. I knew then that what I do in the Air Force is something that makes people feel proud.

When I landed in New York, my hometown, I was even more impressed that people kept staring at me and waved at me as I walked through the terminal. I told myself, "Wow." I'm from New York and never had anyone waved at me without knowing me. But once again I realized why I stood out. It was the uniform.

I never told anyone I was coming home, so when I just walked in my old home, everyone started crying, especially my mother. She had no idea I was coming, and this was the first time she saw me in uniform. She cried so much and would not let go of me. She was so proud of her young son. But the defining moment was when my sisters and my 10-year-old cousin said to me, "You are our hero, and we love you." When they said that, I felt more important than any super hero I've ever seen. The only difference was I'm a real person.

Being a first term Airman also gives me the unique opportunity to interact with people from many different cultures, backgrounds and accents. The different places people come from can teach me many things about other cultures. I get the chance to eat foods I never thought of eating or never knew existed. Another reason I like being in the Air Force is because people from different states speak very differently than I do. By being able to listen to them, I can learn how to listen to anyone that speaks a language I understand no matter what accent they have.

It doesn't matter if this is your first, second, third, fourth or fifth term in the service, we are all Airmen in the U.S. Air Force, and we should all feel the same level of pride or even more than we did when we first signed up to serve our country. No matter how long you've been in, you should know what your Air Force stands for and what our emblem means. I bet there are many Airmen that don't know what it means. I personally didn't and now that I do, I feel everyone should know what it represents. It means duty. It means honor. It means pride.