Air Force family forges bonds, eases strain

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher L. Ingersoll
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
As Airmen, many times we put service before ourselves to accomplish the mission. It's what we signed up for, and it's what we're trained to do.

Even so, what is more than a little difficult is when mission requires us to put service before our spouses and children.

The Air Force does a great many things to take care of families and is working even now, as it is the Year of the Air Force Family, to make our quality of life much better.

As a married father of six, I still feel that no matter what is done to provide better services, housing or anything else, a parent or spouse can simply never be replaced with niceties. That's where our fellow servicemembers become so important.

The Air Force is like an extended family, and the bonds we forge allow us to feel secure in the knowledge our loved ones are taken care of while we have to be separated from them for extended periods of time.

Since joining the Air Force, I've made friends who understand the strain our families go through and make the effort to take care of my family when I am gone. When I moved to England, there was a problem with my family's paperwork, and I had to move here three weeks early, leaving them in a hotel room in the states.

My friend and fellow Airman, Jonathan, and his family had them over for dinner several of those nights to make sure they were getting good meals. I was also able to tell my teenage sons confidently that if they were in any trouble I would have Jonathan come over and help straighten it out.

Victor, another Airman friend, helped my wife sell the car. While Bill, a civilian contractor with whom I became good friends, lent my wife a van to use in the meantime and gave my family a ride to the airport when it was time for them to join me.

Recently, I took a photo of the wing commander giving Tech. Sgt. Justice Rogers a wingman coin for helping an Airman's family. I learned that taking care of each other is not just with my friends, it's Air Force wide.

When Sergeant Rogers learned that one of his deployed Airman's family had contracted the H1N1 virus, he spent $150 of his own money to provide groceries and medications for them. He brought videos for the kids, checked their mail, took care of the garbage collection, transported them to the hospital, fixed the car, cooked meals and made daily visits to their home to make sure they were being taken care of.

After he received the award I told him I thought what he did was admirable.

"You would have done the same thing for your fellow Airmen," he answered.

That really drove it home for me. That's the real meaning of Air Force family. We share the same struggles, triumphs and adventures, but most of all we take care of each other.

The hardest thing to give the Air Force can be more time when we're needed at home, but thanks to our extended Air Force family, even that can be manageable.