Retiring with reflections

  • Published
  • By MSgt. Dennis Vight
  • 439th Maintenance Squadron
In the beginning they called me "Airman."

Then "sergeant."

In later years, I became known as "Grandpa D.," or just plain old "Pappy"... upon retirement, how do you sum up an Air Force career?

You can look it up on a computer and gaze at the countless pages of numbers and dates, all neatly organized.

My Air Force career, what does it mean? The real meaning lies in the faces, events, accomplishments, and everyday experiences -- the learning, coping with the highs and lows of everyday life. Those of us who chose the Air Force as a lifetime career have our personal viewpoints as to what it all meant.

To me it was a choice made many years ago. -- a choice to make a change, to do something different with my life, something special, to learn something new. It gave me a chance to support and defend my country. Little did I know at the time that I would spend the rest of my life doing this.
It was a choice I wouldn't regret. The oath was made. The Air Force became my life. My source of growth and knowledge, my bread and butter. My family support system.

I reflect back and reminisce on all the people that have worked beside me; all the contingencies we were "called up" for; how we pulled together as one big team in support of our country. I remember the long hours, sweat, skinned knuckles, sore backs and beat-up uniforms. We molded ourselves through the changing times, and our changing Air Force. Balancing between family and service, I wondered how we managed to do it all. It seems odd as I think back at all those countless hours spent on the drive to and from work. They were difficult on mind and body. But something changed as my career grew shorter, something within myself. My trips became moments of solitude and reflection, giving me time to sort through the clutter in my mind. It allowed me to become more "in focus" as to who I was, where I was in life, and my purpose here. I began to notice the "smaller" things in life. Things more often overlooked.

Like the way a dusting of snow danced and swirled across a bitter cold tarmac. How I witnessed the countless breathtaking sunrises and sunsets from across the flight line. Aircraft silhouettes. Traveling down the road to the Westover Road gate and admiring that majestic and huge flag gently unfurled against a crystal-clear blue sky. Even the smell of jet fuel that burned through aircraft engines.The mighty fury of God's hand as finger of lightning touch the earth during an evening storm. Thunder rattling the hangar windows.

I think back and reflect on old assignments. The shattering roar of F-111s screaming down a runway, afterburners leaving rings of fire as they streak skyward. The KC-135 tanker which will always be known to me as the "big chickadee." The humming of C-130 engines with the props whirling through an early morning mist.

Lastly, the giant C-5 Galaxy. I watched it rumble down the runway, hauling a maximum cargo load on its way to the Middle East in support of Desert Storm. Endless convoys. All this and much more embedded in my memory, and in my heart, as I reluctantly bid farewell to my Air Force career, but not without being filled with the richness in having worked beside the finest wingmen in our Air Force.

My hat's off to all of you.

Remember: The Air Force is a very big family; tightly woven. We're the strands that make up the giant "blanket of protection" for our country. Each of us is a strand - doing our individual part in keeping our great nation free.