AFA perspective: I will make a difference

A1C England-Smith

A1C England-Smith

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, COlo. -- I was recently chosen to go to Washington, D.C. for the Air Force Association conference, accompanying my group leadership for insightful mentorship.

The purpose of the trip was professional development for Airmen, however I couldn’t help but be excited for the opportunity to explore Washington D.C.

I was able to visit 12 different memorials, each one being more impactful than the last. As the day went on, I couldn’t help but think about how differently this would’ve meant to me a year ago when I was a civilian. When you know what it means to sacrifice like the men and women whose names were on those memorials, it truly changes your perspective on what it means to serve.

The night soon approached and I recall my group commander telling me to try and take it all in, but instead I found myself trying to let it all out -- let out all of the gratefulness and appreciation for the opportunity to be there in that moment. The tours laid the foundation for the upcoming week. Monday started and the only thing long about the day was the lines for registration.

The first speaker was Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. She spoke about reforming the Air Force and dedicating time and effort for the change.

With every different rank in the room, ranging from general to Airman, there was a collective amount of gratefulness but more so a connection to each other. I think we may have all left that briefing inspired.

As the briefings went on, I think the most important one that stood out to me was given by Chief Master Sgt. Of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright about resilience. He read a poem and in it he related every Airmen’s struggle to overcoming. To me it showed how much care he had for the Airman as individuals. There is nothing like having a leader who cares. I sat there inspired and proud to be a part of something so meaningful.

Everyone comes in the military for different reasons and I remember saying to myself, “I’ll only do one enlistment.”

After attending this conference and listening to multiple briefings and stories about successful careers, I told myself I too will serve 20 years for my country, like the members remembered in those memorials and inspiring leaders who spoke. My perspective changed and I gained more respect and love for a greater cause to serve my country.

I want to make a difference. I will make a difference.