While I later would become a Registered Nurse, my time spent in the U.S.A.F. was not spent in that profession. After basic training I was sent to school for training as an Administrative Specialist. Exactly as the term implies, I dealt with administration largely of paperwork involving the actual running of the base. Off base housing, billets &fiscal operations of the base from fuel consumption to pay for our military.
Upon my arrival at Davis-Mothan Air Force Base, I received a new assignment. My tenure in the military was during the years of the Vietnam War. I was assigned to Personal Affairs. In non-war times, this department handles many things but during times of war it is best known for notifications. In other words, on all the bases and posts around the United States, when a service member dies the family is generally visited personally by some member of the military. That job fell to Personal Affairs. I worked directly under an elderly Captain who was the OIC (officer in charge) of this department and often accompanied him in the visitation that occurs after a members death. At 19 years old, death was not a topic that I was familiar with in any personal way. Certainly, I knew people died but it was the kind of knowing one obtains about a subject in which there is no visceral response so little personal experience I had. That changed radically during the time I spent in Personal Affairs.
I watched young women receive news that their husband and the father to their children would not ever be coming home. I listened and observed as the Captain held the hand of a Mother just told her firstborn son died as a hero. I know that knowledge did little to assuage her pain. Her son her baby and every dream she had for him was irretrievably lost with his words.
Yesterday, as I stood in Asheville's downtown commemorating those members of the military that gave our country the gift of their lives, of everything they could have accomplished, all the good they could have done, all the joy that would have been theirs and every dream they ever had ....I had only one prayer. Of course, I prayed for the fallen and the nation they served with their final breath but I also sent up a silent hope that soon we would close the door on our involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq so no more of our country's brightest promise would be snuffed out before it could be realized.
This weekend we hosted two service couples at our bed and breakfast. We have, through the years hosted many, many couples in our military. My husband I and I secretly wondering if there was some kindred spirit that led them there. My husband and I served, my brother as well and my sister retired after 20. We make it a point to thank them for their service and their sacrifice. All of us have an opportunity to do that and it remains my prayer that one day there will be a Department of Peace and no more will have to die. The lives and hopes of so many go with every single death. God Bless America and God bless those who serve her so nobly.
Patti and Gary Wiles, Innkeepers