"He protects us"

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Kapinos
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
An amazing event took place earlier this morning. I was on my way to work after my morning physical training session. It wasn't a morning unlike any of the previous this year, but this one would have a profound impact on me and would remind me why I do this job every day.

As I walked to my car, I saw a young boy standing on a street corner, dressed for school with his backpack on, standing and holding his mother's hand. It was obvious he was waiting for the bus to take him to school and next to him, in her stroller, was his baby sister. It was an iconic American moment, and it caught my attention as I remembered my school days. As I turned the corner, I heard the boy say something along the lines of, "Look, a Soldier." His mother replied, "No, he is Air Force. He protects us." It wasn't the Soldier, or the Air Force line that made me stop and smile, it was the second line. "He protects us."

Why did that statement have such an effect on me? Because at that moment, I remembered all the reasons why I joined the military in the first place -- to protect and serve, to support and defend the principles which made my country free. All the ideals of the oaths we all took before we came in.

I remember reading a commentary a number of years back about what kind of people are in this world and in this country. There are three of them: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Most people are sheep, and while this may have a negative connotation to some, it simply means that most people are content to live their lives by their own choosing, content and peaceful and enjoy their individual pursuits of happiness. Wolves, on the other hand, prey on sheep and seek to destroy that tranquility and sense of peace. They did so on September 11, 2001, and continue to do so every day. Sheepdogs are trained and dedicated to protecting sheep and fighting wolves. Most people who join the military are sheepdogs, because they feel the need to defend what is right and protect our way of life. I consider myself a sheepdog.

During stints of duty in Somalia, Rwanda and other "pleasant" areas of the world, I have seen firsthand what happens when wolves run free to reap their destruction on people. I know that without people trained and dedicated to defeating them, they will make our lives chaotic and unpleasant.

Why do I say I consider myself a sheepdog and tell you about my time "over there?" Is it an attempt to make myself look "cool?" The simple answer is no. Like all people at one time or another in their careers, I have at times become disillusioned with the military and the Air Force. It is not hard to do when we seem to be more like a corporation than a military. Go to any staff meeting and you will hear the same terms that are spoken in any board room today.

But just when you least expect it, a moment in time comes that reminds a person of the basic ideal of why I and all my brothers and sisters serve this country in uniform: to protect and defend this country. It is at these moments, whether it is a simple "thanks" from a veteran or a civilian, or a walk in remembrance at a memorial or cemetery honoring our nation's finest as they rest in deserved peace, that we must remember what is important and why we chose this path for ourselves. We cannot afford to lose focus in what we are doing or why we are doing it.

So to the young child waiting for school and his baby sister, to their mother, to my own children and people across this country, thank you for reminding me why I do this job. Forgive me for losing my focus. I will do my best to always remember and to help others remember.

Rest now and sleep peaceful tonight, because we are standing on that wall, ready to defend you with our lives.

We will not falter ... and we will not fail.