Air Force family not just a catchphrase

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shane Dunaway
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force has its established core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do, but there are also some unwritten concepts which play a pivotal role in the morale and well-being of all Airmen, from the lowest ranking to the chief of staff. One of those is the Air Force family concept. 

As members of the Air Force family, we are not bound together by our bloodlines, but by a common mission, to protect the freedoms our nation has to offer. 

In life we are hit hard with personal issues which can seriously damage our morale and welfare. That's where the Air Force family concept comes into play. 

A few weeks ago, I received news no 23-year-old expects to receive at this stage of their life. My aunt called to let me know my mother, who is only 42 years old, had a stroke. The doctors initially gave my family two options: remove part of her brain so there would be room to swell or try to treat the condition with medication to see if her brain would stop swelling. 

Naturally, news of that nature is going to shake a person up on the inside, but I made it through what I would call the toughest situation I've ever faced in life. I have my Air Force family to thank for their support. 

The support started with my co-workers, who were there to provide support and take care of matters such as setting up my emergency leave and getting me out the door while still being able to accomplish our mission. 

It did not stop there. My friends outside my duty section also stepped up to the plate at a time when I needed help the most. A friend who works in the 4th Equipment Maintenance Squadron allowed me to borrow his suitcase because I didn't have one. 

Another friend from EMS offered to purchase my plane tickets to get me home, no questions asked. My stepdad ended up buying my tickets, but the same friend who offered to buy my tickets took care of maintenance and upkeep on my car. 

Finally, another member of my Air Force family from the 4th Security Forces Squadron offered to drive me to the airport and take care of my room while I was gone. 

The impact of the Airmen's assistance might seem subtle, but it was extremely helpful to my cause. 

My example is only one of many ways the concept of Air Force family can work. 

Everyone has their own battles in life. Some struggle with relationships, family issues, financial problems or depression, to name a few. Sometimes these struggles lead to negative events such as arrests, accidents or even thoughts of suicide. And in most cases, those things can be prevented. I know first hand how an error in judgment can result in a chain reaction of events which can lead to a disaster in the end. 

I'm not trying to say the Airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing haven't been looking out for one another, but are we doing everything we possibly can within our realm of responsibility to ensure the morale and well-being of our friends, co-workers and family are at least at a normal level? 

From my recent experience, I can honestly say the Airmen of the 4th FW stepped up and gave their support to me voluntarily. I challenge everyone at Seymour Johnson to make the same step. 

I want to do my part and plan to do the same whenever someone else in my Air Force family needs help.