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Air Force provides path toward meaningful life

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE. Calif. -- (Editor's note: The 381st Training Group recently held an essay contest for their Airmen students. The following commentary is the winning entry.)

I come from a big city, a voice amidst the daily chorus of pitfalls and survival. It is the home of the ruins of great things, and the foundation of the even more magnificent things yet to come. I'm the product of a small tight knit family, son of a marine, brother of a soldier. I was a student of hard knocks full of ambition hell bent on making a path for my future success, struggling between school and jobs to fulfill the blueprint impressed upon me of being significant and useful to the world around me. My life was a journey to determine its worth to those around me.

Through much deliberation, the weighing down of my soul from both personal defeats and the falling short of many of my peers in finding a skill set that would apply to the career world; I eventually chose to join our United States Air Force. I made a promise to myself to overcome this spiritual stalemate, to use the time within these ranks to open as many doors as possible, to prove myself excellent, and to find the will to match the want.

Over the course of my short time as an Airman, I've discovered a new reservoir of strength to bear more than I knew I could carry; a proud and valiant tradition of defending the voices of a great people and a strident nation. A place devoted to the huddled humble masses, a place seeking to turn meager bread loaf and fish into food to satisfy the masses or provide homes to shelter the weary.

How could I turn my back on such a destiny when so many before me had put forth so great a sacrifice as one I could have carelessly lost, my life?

So I struggle now to be a better Airman, to exemplify the core values, to justify the labor, the prolonged years of nurture that brought my mother to tears as I took that coin into the calloused grooves of my palms. So like her own and so like my fathers before mine. It is in fulfilling this promise that I boldly step into the boots of the man everyday I strive to be, wingman, leader, warrior.