If you have read Welcome Company for a while, you may have picked up here or there that my husband is in the military; the Air Force to be exact. The Arizona Air National Guard to be exact – exact.
He is privileged and honored to serve with the 161st Air Refueling Wing. He has 28 years of dedicated service under his belt as a KC-135 pilot and now commander. He wouldn’t want me to tell you all of that, which is just one of the many reasons we love him and are so proud of him. He is very proud of the 161st though so if we keep the focus on them, it should be okay. It is Veteran’s Day after all.
But first, I just have to show you this picture from a few years back because I love it so much …
Did I mention, he is also a really great dad?
Okay, back to the 161st …
This past summer, my boy’s and I were privileged to attend a very special dedication. The dedication of “The Spirit of Arizona”. Sara was spending time with Grandma in Washington over Summer break so she missed it. I mean, it isn’t every day that you get to stand on the flight line so close to the runway!
There the boys are with Mizz Courtie (as Nathan calls her – it’s really Courtney).
Nathan luuuuvs his Mizz Courtie!
Mizz Courtie is the wife of Colonel Joe Wilson. Joe is the maintenance group commander who led the team responsible for getting the job done and making the “Spirit of Arizona” happen.
The “Spirit of Arizona” is the designation of the 161st tanker that now proudly displays the Arizona State Flag on it’s tail. From what I understand, accomplishing this was no easy task and a great deal of effort was put into getting the final go-ahead for painting the tail.
Countless “man”-hours went into the job. Many of the men and women who worked on the tail, did so on their own “off-duty” time. Not because they had to; they did it because they wanted to and because they have pride in what they do, in their state and in their unit.
The Copperhead team is pretty special. The maintainers who worked on the Spirit of Arizona did and amazing job. But they didn’t stop with the tail.
They also did this …
They painted my husband’s name on the bird he loves so much.
I’m sitting here months later writing about it and I am still tearing up. He didn’t know they were going to do it and he was a little overwhelmed and deeply humbled by the gesture.
And on the other side …
Colonel Wilson’s name. His name up there on that aircraft is a big deal. Why?
Okay, now I’m going to need a tissue.
Colonel Wilson is not a flyer, he is a Maintenance Officer and one of the very best! Behind his name is the name of every single maintainer who keeps these ancient birds in the air. Men and women who’s dedication to their field not only gets the mission done but keeps air crew safe. His name, a maintainer’s name, up there on that plane is a shout out to each and every one of them!
We are always happy when we get a chance to go out and visit with our 161st family. This day in particular was very exciting!
The only thing I can say about his picture is what my husband says just about every time a plane flies over – “planes are cool”.
A daddy first. Always.
Happy Veteran’s Day Copperheads! You are absolutely the best of the best!
And Happy Veteran’s Day to all who have answered the call.
The Spirit of Arizona is but a symbol of the Spirit of the United States Military and all who serve. So, if you find yourself flying into Phoenix and you just happen to look out your window and see her sitting on the ramp, take a moment to reflect on what she represents.
Freedom isn’t free.