Fortunate Son

Jared Worley

An article written by Air Force Technical Sergeant Todd Wivell on the Ellsworth Air Force Base website published on April 24, 2007, outlines the newly released “Airman’s Creed.” General T. Michael Moseley is quoted in saying “Our new Airman’s Creed reminds us all of the incredible combat heritage we have as Airmen. We’re a combatant Air Force; our mission is to fly, fight and win our nation’s wars. We should embrace the notion that the Air Force is a combatant organization” (http://www.ellsworth.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123050271). This creed was repeatedly drilled into me when I arrived at Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas on August 12, 2008. It was a part of everything I did; I lived it and I breathed it. I did push-ups reciting it at the top of my lungs, I screamed it bright and early every morning before every PT session, I said it so much I probably mumbled it in my sleep. Every day was a constant reminder of who and what I was becoming.

I am an American Airman.
I am a Warrior.
I have answered my Nation’s call.

I remember reciting these first lines over and over again until it became second nature to start repeating it whenever questioned to do so. I remember to a ‘T’ how to do my job that I did for almost a year and a half at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland. I am not a combat veteran; I am not going to stand here before you and tell you tales of how I cheated death; I do not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. I do get anxious amongst crowds; I do constantly scan my surroundings and make sure my back is not to the door of any room. It comes with the training; the constant reminder of the threat that looms around every corner. I came nowhere near combat; I sat in a controlled room for twelve hours a day listening to nothing but radio static until an aircraft called out over his radio. I listened to so much static that even today I can’t listen to the radio in my car because of it. So no I am not a warrior. I have been out of the military for almost six years, and static still makes my skin crawl like a giant spider feeding its way to my brain.

It drove my parents insane to be in the car with me when I moved back in with them and my younger sister when I first came home.

“You need to get a job, I don’t want you lying around this house day in and day out,” my mom would say to me as I lied strewn across the couch. After three days, I had enough.

“I’ll get a job, just give me some time to readjust,” I replied. Adjust to what? Adjust to the fact that now I wasn’t being told what to do, when to do it, how to do it? Adjust to the quiet peacefulness of birds singing in the trees, the occasional pickup passing our house, and the screams of the fans at the high school football games on Friday nights? Quite possibly, but something was missing. I haven’t answered my nation’s call.

I am an American Airman.
My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.
I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,
A Tradition of Honor,
And a Legacy of Valor.

When I was a toddler, my dad joined the Army just six days before my first birthday. After basic training and advanced individual training, he received orders to Camp Casey, South Korea twelve miles from the border with North Korea. Because of the location, my mom and I were not allowed to travel with him; he’d spend the next twelve months overseas in what turned out to be a very lonely trip for both him and my mom. Before my dad, my grandfather served in the Air Force during the first Korean conflict of the 1950s as a pilot and in aircraft maintenance. Before my grandfather, my great great uncle served in the Second Infantry Division in World War II. He landed with the second wave on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Years later, when I was just about to enter middle school, my mom researched our family history. We came to find out that in every war the United States has ever been a part of that there has been at least one male who fought from my dad’s side of the family. I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor.

I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation’s Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.

Most of the things I did for my job at Andrews Air Force Base is classified Top Secret, so I cannot tell you anything other than what I have already told you. For six months after I got out, I searched high and low for work. I was willing to work anywhere, do anything, just to get me out of that house with my parents. We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. In February 2011 I got a job at Dot Foods, Incorporated in Mount Sterling, Illinois about twenty minutes from where I lived. Warehouse work is not for the weak or faint of heart; it requires physical strength and mental grit. In the summer, the warehouse can reach up to one hundred and forty degrees or more. Pile on the constant lifting of fifty pounds or more selecting customer food orders, the strain of meeting production standards, and you have yourself a good old fashioned manual labor meets industrial revolution job. It may remind you of another job I have had before this. The military is not for the weak or faint of heart; less than one per cent of the country is eligible to join the military. I will defend my country with my life.

I am an American Airman.
Wingman, Leader, Warrior.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail.

My job at Dot Foods only lasted until that November of 2011; I don’t mind manual labor, but that place was something else. By Spring of 2012, I had decided that I would give my hand at college. Initially, I had decided to give it one year and see how it went; partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to study, mostly because I didn’t even know if college was right for me. In August of 2012, I officially entered Western Illinois University as a freshman Psychology major at twenty-two years old. My very first class on the Monday classes started was introduction to human communication, and instantly I felt a sense of alienation. Why? It could have been that I was almost twenty-three; could have been that I did not know anyone in my class; it could have been anything, but looking back now, I have accepted the reason of being almost twenty-three and with military experience. My favorite class that first semester was my college composition class; the professor pushed me to be a much better writer than I was when I had started. The military’s way of writing is different; short, brief, and to the point. After discovering all of the math that was needed for a degree in Psychology, I decided to switch majors to my second passion: English. I had always loved writing papers and reading, so it only seemed natural that I get my degree in English. I still felt alienated from the kids in my classes; while they were discussing partying all weekend, I was sitting at home with nothing to do. I had my days of fun in the Air Force and I was over that scene when I got out.

Here I am three years later, on the eve of graduation, and I can’t help but look back on the last three years and what they’ve meant to me. I haven’t partied every weekend, I haven’t gone to football games or basketball games, and I haven’t done the “college experience.” I’ve disciplined myself to be who I am today; I am vice president of my local Sigma Tau Delta chapter, I’ve edited nonfiction stories for the Western Illinois University Veteran Resource Center and Department of English and Journalism’s publication Veterans’ Voices: Stories of Combat and Peace, I’ve written and edited stories for the Sigma Tau Delta newsletter The Mirror and the Lamp, I’ve published a poem in Veteran’s Voices, I’ve presented at the WIU Undergraduate Research Day, and now I am writing my experience out before you, hoping and wishing you’ll understand that I am an American Airman and I will never leave a brother or sister-in-arms behind. But I will falter and I will fail from time to time and that’s okay. Failing is a human condition in which we respond only by continuing to move forward. I am an American Airman, I am a veteran, and I will fly, fight, and win.