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What's in it for me?

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Many of you are sitting here at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing wondering, "Why am I here? What's in it for me?" Well, these are fair questions, but perhaps a little enlightenment on our situation will help you see the big picture and feel a sense of worth. 

I think the first question is an easy one. You are here because you volunteered to serve your country. You took an oath and signed that famous dotted line. 

Nobody made you do this; you did it on your own free will. What you did is admirable. You may have had your own personal reasons for joining the Air Force, whether it was education or a guaranteed paycheck. 

However, the bottom line is you chose a life of public service to defend your country. You did this knowing risk and sacrifice is an essential part of military life. So let's move onto the next question, which may require a deeper introspect. 

"What's in it for me?" Well to me there's also a simple answer. Pride. Pride in knowing I'm defending the freedoms many of us may take for granted. Pride in doing my part to fight the good fight in the backyard of the bad guys instead of in my own backyard. 

My life changed after 9/11, as I'm sure most American lives did. I was born in New York City, and grew up in New Jersey. My parents saw the Twin Towers collapse from their home on that fateful day. One of my close childhood friends worked right across the street from the World Trade Center, and saw images that will scar him for life. 

In April of 2001, I took my wife into New York City for her very first visit, and we actually went to the top of the Twin Towers. I was utterly speechless when the Towers collapsed as they had been a permanent fixture to me my whole life. 

That awful feeling in the pit of my gut lasted a long time and was put there by a group of extremists whose only desire was and continues to be, killing Americans and ruining our way of life. 

The events of 9/11 changed my focus on why I serve. Now I serve to ensure the American way of life perseveres for future generations. 

I'm proud to be part of the world's best military defending the world's greatest country. I'm proud that our country is showing the world that if you mess with us, we're coming after you. 

Just three days after 9/11, President Bush stated, "War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful but fierce when stirred to anger. The conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way and at an hour, of our choosing." 

It may take some time to complete our objective, but persistence is a commendable attribute. I'm willing to go after the bad guys for as long as it takes to ensure my country never goes through what it did after we were attacked. My way of life changed after 9/11, and I don't much appreciate that it changed under the terms of the terrorists. 

The feeling of pride in my country and defending our way of life is what I get out of my assignment here. So being deployed to the 379th AEW, what's in it for you?