Giving your life for your country

  • Published
  • By Col. John D. Cinnamon
  • 71st Operations Group commander
Often times, you will hear that those who wear the uniform are willing to give their lives for their country. The image created in the mind is typically of a brave sacrifice in the face of enemy action or a dangerous mission that required the ultimate commitment with a heroic result and a fatal outcome.

This type of scenario has certainly played out in the history of our armed forces, and it is unfortunately an almost daily occurrence in combat engagements around the globe. While that kind of sacrifice can never be honored too much, the call to give your life for your country means far more than a heroic death.

In World War II, General George S. Patton said that no one wins a war by dying for their country, but by making others die for theirs. His point was that the sacrifice required to win our nation's wars isn't losing one's life, but using it to serve our country every day.

Every member of our military makes daily sacrifices - some large, some small, some with careful thought, some instinctively - for our great nation.

Many of these proud servants would never think they are giving their life for their country - but they truly are. They are giving of themselves, their families, their comfort and many other aspects of their lives to place Service before Self. This is done without hesitation, and it is essential to the success of our military and our nation.

This quality of service is the most critical element of "followership." These servicemembers know there are concerns greater than themselves. They know our country needs men and women who are willing to follow. They know that only by giving their lives can our nation maintain its liberty and freedom.

Recently, I had the honor of hearing retired Lt. Col. Bill "Shortfinger" Schwertfeger and retired Col. Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue speak at a 71st Student Squadron roll call. Certainly, both men are heroes, and their stories of bravery, competence and sacrifice are extremely relevant in today's Air Force.

Without a doubt, both have given of their lives for their nation. Equally inspiring, is their desire to continue to serve by mentoring the current generation of Airmen and contributing their time and talents to Team Vance.

Followership and sacrifice are not qualities solely found in our military. Vance benefits from the sacrifices of numerous members of the Enid community every single day. One example is Mary Feightner, a Vance Partner in the Sky who serves our Airmen tirelessly.

She single-handedly coordinates our Class Sponsorship Program and has for 17 years. She can be seen supporting our base at various functions and always looks for ways to help us accomplish our mission and take care of Airmen.

No, she hasn't been called to make the ultimate sacrifice. She is, however, following the same calling to serve others before herself.

Mary is not alone. Most at Vance know firsthand the contributions, sacrifices and support that people in Enid, America offer to us and our mission. They have heard the calling and are following their nation's call in their own way.

Military members are, without question, willing to lay down their lives for their country. Equally important, is their desire to follow their nation's call to give of their lives for their country. Giving your life for your country is not a singular final act, but a continual state of mind and action.

This followership, Service before Self, and sacrifice are qualities found in proud Americans every day, in our military and in our civilian communities.