My Friend

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Glenn Chadwick
  • 28th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander
You have been with me my whole life, giving me the guidance and courage to do the things I want and helping me fulfill my goals wherever I go.

I remember the first time I met you. I think it was Kindergarten. You always seemed to be confident and proud no matter what might have been said about you. I remember greeting you every morning and throughout the day as our paths would cross, you waving at me and me back at you. Through my school years -- elementary, junior high, then high school -- you began to mean more to me than anything else as I realized the things you represented. You were always adamant about the ideals of our great country; you taught me how to respect the freedoms we have and the sacrifices others have made over the years to give us those liberties. It probably wasn't until high school when I started studying the history of America that I began to realize with your help, how much it means to be an American.

We stayed close even after I went to college. I joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps, where I learned more about what our great country has gone through and accomplished, and how important it is to protect her and all she stands for. You came and watched me as I wore the uniform of our mighty Air Force for the first time during all those drill practices - rain or shine. You watched proudly as I learned what it meant to be an Airman and worked hard to become an ambassador in blue.

You stood behind me as I received my commission in the Air Force and you were the first to quietly give your thanks for what I was setting out to do. But, of course, it was you that deserved the thanks for standing beside me wherever I went. You let me know I could look to you at any time and be reminded of who I was and why I was here. You were there to support me as I started my military career and, for the first time, truly began to understand what it meant to serve.

I was lucky enough to have you follow me to my first assignment at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. That became home for a couple years, and you were glad to be there as well. You were there as I took on new job responsibilities, green through and through, but ready to serve my country and protect her wherever called upon to do so. You were there as I left home every morning, waving as I left, and reminding me every day what you meant to me. And when I returned each night, you would always be waiting for me by the front porch, greeting me and welcoming me home after doing my small part to help keep this country free. In the summer, late at night, we would spend time out front with the light gleaming up at us from the spotlight out in the yard. People would drive by, see us and wave as we waved to them. It truly felt like the great American dream.

As I moved on to new assignments throughout my career, it may have seemed that you followed me wherever I went, but truthfully, I was following you. You were my beacon, my guiding light, always showing me the way. There were the many times that I deployed, sometimes for long periods of time, and I had to leave you back at home, but you were always there with me. I would see your translucent composure in the distance from my tent or whatever I stayed in, in far off lands, beautifully waving to me, reminding me why I was there: protecting our freedoms and helping others. After seeing the poverty and devastation in many other countries, it became more evident how lucky I was to have you and our great way of life.

You were there with me at awards ceremonies, retirement ceremonies, promotion ceremonies, and just about everything else I attended, proudly looking on at the happenings of the day, knowing that every little thing we did was important to the security and well-being of all of us, our nation, and the world. You have been a great friend through ups and downs, giving me hope when I needed it, and sharing in my good fortunes when they came.

One of our most tested moments came Sept. 11, 2001, when it seemed like our world came crumbling down around us. It was a time that we would never forget where we were and what we were doing. It tested our spirits, our securities, our will and our way of life. But you again rose up and told me not to worry, as America would not let this drag her down, for she had seen other trying events in her lifetime and got through them. You stood by me and comforted me, as I'm sure you did for every other American. Many servicemen and women would get the call to begin the fight against terrorism, some would never return. You would tell me that although some would not return, their fight wasn't in vain. The principles and values that we believed in would persevere because of their sacrifices and this fight, wherever it took us, was worth it for the sake of our future. No one would get in the way of our living free and enjoying the ideals that we enjoy in America, or demonstrating our generosity to others around the globe.

You've been there for me pretty much my entire life, a true friend that I've worshipped and loved, no matter what anyone else may have thought of you. You have been my glory, my resilience, my confidant, day and night, day after day. Although you are not what many would call part of family, you are part of mine, not with a love that I might show a spouse or child, but with a love that still comes from the heart. You are my old friend, my Old Glory, my stars and stripes, my star-spangled banner ... you are the flag of the United States of America.

You will shine bright for always, for all, not just for me. I am grateful to those who have fought and died to protect you and what you stand for, and I will never forget them, each one of them. You have waved in front of my house for as long as I can remember, quietly whispering to me as I step out in the morning that I am free and live in the best country there ever was. You give me chills when I hear the Star-Spangled Banner playing and see you standing straight on a stage or graciously ruffling high atop your post outside. I am proud to salute you for all you are. I will not duck inside to avoid that, no matter the weather, because I know many before me have endured much worse than two minutes outside in a cold wind in order to protect you. And I will keep doing so until the day I die, feeling confident that when that time comes, you will again be there for me, to warm me like a blanket, laying me to rest and thanking me for my service to you. But of course, I don't deserve the thanks; it is you that I will always be thankful for, my friend.