We understand; we won't forget

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Each year as Veterans Day approaches, I revisit the childhood memories of my mother gathering me and my 10 siblings to go see a Veterans Day parade. My mom was a true patriot and showed it every year by marching every mile with the parade.

She would point to the soldiers who served in World Wars I and II. She would tell us about Uncle Jack and his service in Korea and how our cousin Francis had been wounded by AK-47 fire in Vietnam. She would constantly remind us never to forget those who had served and continued to serve.

She was not a fan of war or militaristic in any sense, but she loved those who served because of the sacrifices they and their families made to keep us free. Her patriotism and respect for U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen was phenomenal.

She inspired me to take the oath to defend our nation. I will never forget the day I told her I was joining the Air Force. There was a mixed sense of pride and anxiety in her eyes.

I'm certain that many of us saw this in our parent's, spouse's or children's eyes when we joined. They know that we are in a dangerous profession.

They know it is a profession that may take our lives. They live with anxiety each time we deploy in harm's way. They live with the constant fear that we may not return. Serving our nation is a sacrifice for us and our families, but our nation's freedom is worth it.

This year an event will take place at the New Mexico Veteran's Memorial at Gibson and Louisiana Boulevard on Saturday.

There will be speeches honoring those who served and continue to serve. Col. Robert Suminsby Jr., 377th Air Base Wing commander, will deliver the keynote address while Lt. Col. David Mobley, 550th Special Operations Squadron commander, will be the master of ceremonies.

Team Kirtland members will carry our 50 state flags in a Parade of Flags. Congresswoman Heather Wilson will provide remarks, and an honor guard team from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency will post the colors.

The highlight of the event will occur when we honor our fallen warriors. In particular, we will honor the families of three Soldiers and one Marine killed in Iraq. All were New Mexicans. Bricks with their names will be enshrined at the memorial so that we will never forget their sacrifice.

Let's be clear. We are not glorifying war. We are honoring those who sacrificed their sons for this nation. This event will last a mere two hours, but it is sure to leave an indelible mark in the minds of all who attend.

Last year, I carried Maryland's flag. As I marched by veterans of past wars, I will never forget the sharp salutes or tears of pride falling from tough warriors' eyes in the crowd. I will also never forget the protesters we passed on the way in. They had their signs and we warriors respectfully marched by them without saying a word. We respected their right to protest and were proud of the fact that because of us -- they could.

This year the protesters will be out again, yet I wonder how many warriors will show. Sure, the stalwart veterans of yesterday will be there, but I have heard many of my colleagues say there will be a smaller crowd of Team Kirtland members because it is a weekend. I dismiss my colleagues' negative forecast and think we at Kirtland will never allow the families of the fallen to go forgotten. It is my hope that all of us will take two hours to fill the stands and pay tribute to those who have given themselves totally to freedom's cause. We, as members of the armed forces, understand and will not forget what it means to serve. Let's show Albuquerque what we believe.