Longevity Day—A short history of my time in the wild blue yonder

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Susan L. Davis
  • 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Just a few days ago, I celebrated a milestone in every Airman's career--I finally passed my four-year enlistment mark, giving me the right to add the Air Force Longevity Service Award to my ribbon rack.

The Air Force Longevity Service Award is awarded for completing four years of active, Reserve or Air National Guard service. It was created in 1957 by then-Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Thomas D. White. Its primary purpose was to be the Air Force equivalent to other branches' service stripes for enlisted members, although both officers and enlisted may wear the Air Force Longevity Service Award once they've surpassed their four-year mark.

The Air Force has offered me more in my four short years than I could've ever hoped for on my own. I'd like a chance to share just a few things the Air Force has offered me in my career. As a fellow Airman, I'll bet you can relate.

One of the most popular reasons to join any of the services is for education. I am just a handful of classes away from completing my Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree, and I haven't had to pay a cent out of my own pocket. By the same token, the Air Force has offered me free on-the-job training that will make me more competitive when I eventually transition back to civilian life.

Another major benefit of having a family in the military is that all of my basic needs are met in one place; my children go to daycare and school on base. My family doctor is located at the clinic on base. I can do all of my grocery shopping at the commissary. I can even take advantage of a variety of recreational activities, including camping, horseback riding, swimming, arts and crafts, and more.

My affiliation with the military has opened doors for me financially, too--when I bought my truck, I got approved for my loan with no hesitation through a military-affiliated loan program. I just bought my first house with a VA loan for almost no money down at a very decent price.

When I didn't have enough money saved up to take an emergency trip to my hometown in San Antonio when my father died last year, the Air Force stepped in to help.

In my career so far, I've had the opportunity to work with and for some of the best and brightest professionals I have ever known. They have helped shape me as an Airman and a person, and shown me what kind of leader I want to be.

The Air Force has taught me self-reliance, confidence and accountability, in just about every aspect of my life. I have taken charge of my career as well as my own physical, mental and spiritual fitness. I have learned what it means to look out for others and have my wingman's wellbeing at heart.

Perhaps the most important thing that the Air Force has given me is the true meaning of what it means to be an American, an Airman, and what it means to live in and raise a family in the greatest country on earth. It's helped define my legacy; it's given me the tools to defend it and the drive to fight for it. I am proud to have had the chance to represent my country and my branch of service, and I can only hope to continue to be a credit to both.

Going back to the word 'longevity,' what exactly does it mean? It is defined in the dictionary as "a long individual life, or great duration of individual life."

So now I look back and ask myself, "Am I better off now than I was four years ago?"

I can honestly say without a doubt, "Yes."