Faithful to a proud heritage, adding to the legacy

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary Snyder
  • 319th Air Base Wing chaplain
The young Airman sat quietly on the side of the small room observing the interrogation of a young male detainee. The Grand Forks Airman was there to ensure that the interrogators treated the detainee humanely.

This was one of a myriad of similar interrogations the Airman had sat through during her six-month deployment. She was subjected to listening to the explicit details of the terrorist activities and of being the target of detainee curses and threats; all while being there to advocate for the appropriate treatment of each detainee. The memories of her experiences remain vivid in her mind months later, and thousands of miles away from her hostile deployment location.

In the midst of the Airman's creed is a sentence that says, "I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and legacy of valor." The service and sacrifices of the Airman listed above is now woven into that heritage and legacy.

Her story, while unique in its details, is not the only one of its kind. I have met a great cast of Airmen that are living and working here that have similar accounts of noble and heroic service.

Hearing of their courageous and selfless service will inspire you as it has me. Did you know that there is a dog handler from our 319th Security Forces Squadron that served on the frontlines in Afghanistan, many times under attack, serving alongside Army and Special Operations troops?

She and her dog were responsible for alerting troops of the presence of countless Improvised Explosive Devices. Their courageous work literally saved the lives of thousands of U.S. service members.

Another Warrior of the North hero served as a combat cameraman working extensively "outside the wire", documenting the carnage left in the aftermath of IED attacks and skirmishes with insurgent forces.

Yet another Grand Forks Airman spent his six months in the Area of Responsibility, accompanying convoys as combat medic. These are but a few of the Airmen heroes who live and work among us.

My point is our co-workers, wingmen and neighbors are living out, everyday, the pledge to be "faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor." It is a heritage and legacy that is being re-written with new chapters of selfless and sacrificial service. It's being re-written by Civil Engineers who constructed a bare base in an austere and hostile part of Afghanistan.

The chapters are added to by the medic who provided world class medical care to detainees even as the enemy patients threatened and spit on him. It is the firefighter who lived and worked alongside Iraqis helping them develop skills as firefighters. Let's not forget the Security Forces Airmen who have helped secure convoys and guard detainees. The modern day Warrior of the North hero might be your neighbor who spent countless hours "outside the wire" gathering evidence to prosecute insurgents.

These are but a few sketches highlighting the exploits of Grand Forks Airmen. Yet, none of these Airmen perceive of themselves as heroes. Their typical response is, "I was just doing my duty." They view what they have done, and are doing, as "normal." In other words, they saw nothing exceptional about their service.

I guess their response should come as no surprise. This humble and unassuming attitude is the same as we witness in the generations of heroes that gone before us.

But think about it, we think is normal to be whisked away from the rhythm of our everyday lives here, and to be inserted in the midst of constant danger and bewildering heat. We perceive that it is normal to spend months at time separated from our families, missing births, birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. We accept as normal that we will expose our bodies, minds and souls to great danger and trauma and never conceive of our service as heroic. That is faithfulness to our proud heritage. It is now your legacy of valor!

Warriors of the North, you are an inspiration! I applaud you for your selfless and sacrificial service. It is an honor to serve alongside you as you write new amazing chapters in the proud heritage of honor and live out the legacy of valor.