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Essay winners reflect on military pride, families

Master Sgt. Kara Stackpole, 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, gives a kiss to her daughter, Samantha, after the senior NCO's return from a deployment to Iraq in 2008.  (US Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andrew Biscoe)

Master Sgt. Kara Stackpole, 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, gives a kiss to her daughter, Samantha, after the senior NCO's return from a deployment to Iraq in 2008. (US Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Andrew Biscoe)

WESTOVER AIR RESERVE BASE, Mass. - --   EDITOR'S NOTE: Steven Naylor, a family member of a Westover reservist, and Master Sgt. Kara Stackpole, 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, recently each won $500 Chiefs' Council scholarships for their essays.
Steven is the son of Tech. Sgt. Brian Naylor, 42nd Aerial Port Squadron. The following are excerpts from his essay that answered:
"What does it mean to be a family member of an Air Force reservist?"
Sergeant Stackpole's essay excerpts, which follow, answer,
"What does it mean to be a part of today's Air Force Reserve Command?"
These are excerpts from his essay he wrote about his father's dedication to service.

   Honestly, it is hard to put into words what it's like to be the son of an Air Force Reserve member. I won't speak for everyone, but for me, it hasn't always been easy. Many people, including some military, don't think it's a big deal to be part of the reserves.
I have friends that are in the military who refer to reservists as "weekend warriors," people who drill once a month and only go away for a maximum of two weeks once a year.
   After being a son of a reservist all my life, I can honestly say that reservists, especially my father, are just as important as any active-duty member and are far from mere "weekend warriors."
   In the last seven years my father has been deployed twice. The first of which was     December 26, 2002. I was in seventh grade at the time and he left for 11 months. He missed my 13th birthday and almost a full year of my life. I don't think people understand or realize what it is like to be part of a military family until they actually live it. When one of your parents is deployed with the military, and the other parent is a city police officer, you tend to grow up faster than you should.
   During those 11 months in 2002, I matured a great deal. Even though I was just 13, I felt much older. When my mother was working late I had to take care of my little brother, make dinner, help him with his homework, and still do all of my work.
You'd think it would become easier, that you might get used to your father being gone with the military, but it doesn't; it was harder the second time. That second deployment was in September 2008. I was 19 and starting my first year of college at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Looking at 2010, my father is going to deploy for a third time for four months. This time will not be any easier. 
   Sergeant Stackpole's essay:
   Over the past 12 years, I have learned and witnessed first-hand that I'm part of the greatest team ever assembled.
   My team encourages me to succeed, teaches me how to overcome obstacles, educates me on how I fit in, entrusts me with life-changing decisions, supports me when times are tough and empowers me to do the same for the rest of our team.
   I know I would have never become the woman I am today if not for the reserve. I would have eventually obtained my education, found a job, and ultimately raised a family. I'm sure I may have been happy, but I would have never felt this sense of purpose that is ingrained in me. It is a cause that transcends any job or career I could have envisioned on my own.
   Obtaining a nursing degree means I bring stronger skills to our team. When I have the honor of deploying again, I will have strengthened and diversified my ability to help our wounded men and women.
   I'm also the mother of a beautiful six year old daughter. When she was born, I wondered if I would be a good example for her. I always wanted to become a nurse and felt she would be proud of me for that. I no longer wonder if I am going to be a good example, or worry if my daughter will be proud of me.
   This has already been answered.
   As I arrived back in the United States from Iraq, she was there waiting to jump into my arms.
   She called me her hero and let me know how proud she was of me. 
   This is why I consider it an honor to write this for you, to say thank you to my team for giving my life a higher purpose.