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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tours of Duty: Combat, Memorial Day & the Distinguished Flying Cross

My accomplishments during my 11-year military career earned me 29 commendations, including the Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Humanitarian Service Medal. When I left the military, I was one of the most highly decorated in the command. 

My commander and supervisor loved it when I put on my dress blues and participated in the various parades and celebrations on base, especially Memorial Day and the 4th of July. I met a few presidents, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and a few generals, including Colin Powell and H. Norman Schwarzkopf, that way. And let me tell you, it was truly great to have presidents and generals shake my hand and meant it.

With Memorial Day right around the corner, it’s a good time to look back and reflect. I served my country in foreign lands and during several tours of duty in combat zones, including two combat tours in Iraq. I flew on 32 combat missions from the opening days of the war to its end. In that time, there was never a day I didn’t look death in the face. Never a day I didn’t face AAA, SAMs and more as we flew our missions.

Because of that service, I will always know that when the darkest of hours arrives I will not hesitate. When asked, I answered. When called, I went. When death stared up from the void, I did not fear. I gave because it was my duty and because I felt it was the right thing to do.

I write about some of my experiences in my military memoir, Stormjammers: The Extraordinary Story of Electronic Warfare Operations in the Gulf War, which was featured in a full-page review in the Journal of Electronic Defense and on NPR. Though a memoir, the book is largely a tribute to the men and woman I served with.

If you read Stormjammers and I hope you do, I hope the book opens a window for you as big as the original experiences did for me. After combat, the world never seemed quite the same. The return to normalcy was a strange experience, never quite accomplished. I don’t, in fact, think I ever slowed down or ever quite touched the earth after those experiences. For it was afterward that everything in this world changed—that everything in this world became so clear. And afterward that I set my sights on the future and never looked back.

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