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Take care of your people throughout the holidays

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Patrice Clarke
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
I was 18 years old when I arrived at my first base, Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. I was Airman Basic Clarke then, more than five years ago, and it was the first time that I had ever been away from home. I was like most new Airmen, arriving at their first base. I didn't have a car, I knew one other person from tech school and I was in a state that was so opposite of Texas, it was practically like night and day.

I was only there for a couple of months before the holiday season rolled around. I thought to myself, self, you're a grownup. You'll be fine this holiday season. You will just hang out with your dorm friends and eat a lot of food and it will be great.

About a week before Thanksgiving, it really started to hit me that this would be the first year ever that I wasn't going to be at my mom's house in Texas, eating sweet potato pie. My sisters and brothers called me throughout that week teasing me about eating dining hall food while they would be eating my mom's home cooking.

My superintendent at that time was a master sergeant who had come into the military three months before I was even born. Before leaving on Wednesday he came up to me and asked me if I had anything planned for Thanksgiving, if I didn't, his wife had already saved a place for me. He also asked me if I had any friends in the dorms that weren't doing anything and if they wanted to eat too.

I thought that it was just such a nice thing to do, to ask someone that you have only known for a few months to share in something as special as a holiday dinner. I told him as much and what he said to me I didn't understand until a few years later.

He told me that, that's what we do. I said we, like your family? He said no, we as in my, and now your Air Force family. We take care of each other. For any number of reasons there are going to be times when your immediate family isn't going to be there for those important moments in your life like holidays, promotions, graduations and such. Though your immediate family won't be there, your Air Force family will. We take care of each other.

I was at his house for two more Thanksgivings after that.

As we head into this holiday season keep your Air Force family in mind. Reach out to your people, especially the people who are new to the base and new to the Air Force. I really don't think my outlook on my Air Force family would have been what it is now without that one invitation to dinner.