Salute to Our Military

Salute to Our MilitaryBy Wendy O. Dixon, Editor

Ask any active-duty, retired or former military person, and he or she will tell you the same thing: There is a special unity among servicemen and women and the families who support them.

The unique bond is forged between men and women who are willing to fight for their country’s freedom and die for their comrades. It is created by their loved ones, who stand behind them, keeping things going when a member of the family is deployed.

My grandfather, Gatha Alton Owens, served in the U.S. Army during World War II. And my father, retired F-4 fighter pilot Gatha (call sign “Butch”) Owens, served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years. My stepfather, Ron Giddens, served in the U.S. Army, and my husband’s father, Ed Dixon, also served in the Air Force.

As Dad describes it, any man or woman who has worn the uniform is a brother or sister. He and his wife, Beverly, who is also retired from the Air Force, met while stationed at Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

“Does that mean I married my brother?” she often jokes.

Dad, as I’m sure most military parents do, taught us what it meant to sacrifice for our country, and that it is important to stand still when we hear the National Anthem and place our hand on our heart when we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

 Growing up as an Air Force brat, my sister and I made fast friends with the other military kids. Since we all moved around every few years, we quickly learned to assimilate, adapting to our new surroundings and finding a group of kids who knew what it was like to change schools frequently and to often have one parent absent for a period of time. The bond between the kids of military men and women was similar to that of their parents.

Like a big family, we did everything together. And everyone could count on the others for the little things, such as helping with a flat tire, and the big things, like helping each other to cope with the stress that comes with the dangers involved in certain missions.

With many of those friends, we’ve lost touch over the years of traveling from base to base. But we still consider them family, and if we were to come upon them again today, we could easily pick up right where we left off.

In honor of our military family, this issue of Emerald Coast Magazine has a fascinating story of the 75-year history of Eglin Air Force Base. Written by retired F-4 fighter pilot and Emerald Coast Magazine writer Scott Jackson, we share with you some of the many contributions this national treasure has made toward every U.S. military campaign since World War II, as well as its contributions to the Emerald Coast community.

And to those of you who have served in the armed forces, thank you for your service.