Showing honor to those who’ve served

  • Published
  • By Col. Diane Hull
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Commander
For the vast majority of Americans, Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer and all the fun activities we've been waiting for through a long winter. This year we are fortunate to have an AMC Family Day in conjunction with the Memorial Day Holiday, making it a 4-day weekend.

This is a great time to take a trip and visit with friends, get out of town for a while, or perhaps just relax and barbeque at home with your family. Whatever your plans, enjoy the well-deserved break, but remember what Memorial Day is really all about; freedom isn't free. Be sure to reflect on those who served before us to protect the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy today. Think about those brave service members who gave their lives so that we could make the most of ours.

So how can we best honor and recognize those who served before us? By continuing to protect the freedoms of our nation. We owe it to them not to squander this gift through needless loss of life. On this Memorial Day, I need every Airman, civilian, and family member to focus on safety.

Memorial Day marks the beginning of the deadly "101 critical days of summer." Vehicle fatalities rise dramatically over the summer months. The overwhelming majority of traffic deaths involve alcohol, reckless driving, and failure to use seat belts. Some accidents involve all three of these risky behaviors.

These "causes" are not consistent with the disciplined lifestyle that makes us the greatest Air Force in history. Leadership, discipline and risk management, as well as a total regard for traffic laws, military regulations and the protection that comes from basic common sense, can effectively minimize these risks.

Year after year, traffic deaths and injuries irrevocably alter or destroy the lives of our Airmen and families. Last year Grand Forks AFB was fortunate in that we had zero traffic-related fatalities...but we had more than 90 mishaps! That's way too high. I need your help in setting the standard in your squadron, office, or family by following two "rules" that will make a significant difference:

* Always use seat belts. Seat belts reduce injury or death by 45 percent. Buckling up is the best life insurance available and it's free! Unfortunately, some drivers - in full view of signs requiring their use - come through the gate without them. Safety belts are required 100 percent of the time on and off base for military personnel; it's your responsibility to comply and ensure this requirement is enforced.
* Eliminate drinking and driving. About a third of all highway deaths involve drunken driving. Alcohol leads to destructive behavior. Drunken driving is unacceptable and dangerous to one's life and career, as well as an unacceptable risk to others. Be smart, have a plan and look out for each other.

All of us must do our duty: intervene if the situation calls for it and make a difference. Learn to identify hazards, assess risks and implement controls. It's a lifesaver. Make risk management integral to everything you do, both on and off base. Our Air Force needs your leadership.

As you fire up the grill this coming weekend, pause a moment to think about the sacrifices of our comrades who have gone before. You honor them by staying safe and living to fight another day. Enjoy the long weekend!