Here two days later, I still listen to the snapping of the two flags being tossed by the breeze at the top of my flag pole in front. They were raised a couple of days ago to help our expected visitors spot our location as they arrived in unfamiliar country, the sky blue of the United States Air Force service flag touching the red, white and blue of our National Standard flying just above it. I was proud to be standing watching as right on time the Hill AFB vehicle made the turn into our half-mile long driveway and made its way to where I was standing.
I had known for several weeks now that the team of three Air Force specialists would be coming, and that they would be under orders to interview, photograph and videotape me (and my life) for a program originating at the Pentagon called Veterans In Blue. I had been told just enough about the project to be sure that some kind of a mistake had been made and that sooner or later someone would realize this. While I am still full of questions, these three dedicated airmen left me with no doubts that they were here to do their job, and that escape, at least for now, and under their watch would not be easy. Thus began what would be for me two of the most compelling and rewarding days of human interplay I am likely to see again anytime soon These three young “kids” were so good at what they did, that they had me actually believing that I was in charge of what was going on in my home. What’s more they made me feel proud to be a part of their (mistaken?) enterprise.
Looking over what they had to work with as a shooting environment, and how to best deal with an old guy who thought he knew a thing or two, I hardly realized I had just witnessed the quiet finessing of known intelligence, isolation of best strategy for achieving their objective (getting their assignment done) before ever revealing the carload of technical equipment which would inundate our private domain the next day. While I had no reason to doubt that they were whiz kids with camera, lighting, sound enhancement and production management, I never realized until it was all over how they had quietly figured me out, won me over as a real ally and learned to use their own deep and sincere respect for me as a guiding tool in the whole process. A/1C Desiree Ware, the lone female team member, turned out herself to be a proud 3rd generation member of a family which has made the Air Force (and Army) “home”. Her grandmother is a veteran of 33 years of USAF service, and her father presently wears the uniform of an Army Warrant Officer.
The Veterans in Blue program is itself an effort to turn the spotlight on the individual contributions of everyday airmen to the legacy of the USAF. It was initiated in 2010 from an office in the Pentagon, and to the present has told the story of about 144 individuals. The 2017 nominations may add as many as 40 more, drawn from across the country. One corridor of the Pentagon displays the photo-records of each year’s group while the digital and video elements are distributed more widely.
What makes me feel good about this program is knowing that behind it is the recognition of the importance of building a sense of continuity and shared pride between generations of those who have served in all our wars; so that young service-men and women of the future will feel a connection with those whose example of service to country is worth feeling a part of. One of the reasons I am a noisy veteran is my fear that our society as a whole is in the process of forgetting who we are.
Interviewing Al in his home are A/1C Desiree Ware, S/A Codie Trimble and S/A Nicholas Brown.