The Unfortunate Fortune Teller

  • Published
  • By CMSgt. Atticus C. Smith
  • Command Chief, 388th Fighter Wing
Shortly after I pinned on chief master sergeant, I received numerous guest speaking invites. It wasn't because I was good at public speaking, it was because I was a chief and people expected that I would be well-versed in delivering leadership messages. In reality, I was very ill prepared. My first official speaking opportunity occurred at an Airman Leadership School graduation, just 13 days after sewing on chief. At best I did okay. It was clear that speaking at such a venue was something I should have done long before being a Chief. My most recent speaking opportunity was better than my first but I never imagined how true some of the words would turn out to be.

In early April, I had the wonderful opportunity to be the guest speaker for the Vosler Noncommissioned Officers Academy Class 10-3. As with the start of most speeches, I tried to lighten the mood with a few funny comments. Since I don't get paid to be a comedian I eventually had to begin my speech so I transitioned from playful banter to a more serious tone.

I said, "A part of me always feels guilty for being able to attend formal events such as this graduation because there isn't a day that goes by that I don't reflect on the fact that there are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguard and civilians who are in harm's way, protecting the very freedoms we enjoy." My message began with that momentary reflection of our freedoms and the service and sacrifice made each day, by so many, to preserve the very freedoms we are blessed with.

The next day, as I headed to the airport, I began reflecting on a great evening. What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our fellow Airmen with friends, family and comrades. My fond thoughts were disrupted by my phone ringing; a long time friend was calling. When I answered I knew it wasn't a social call. He said he couldn't say much but recommended I go to my intelligence flight, "There's some news on some of our brothers."

I used my blackberry to check the web and it didn't take long to see the headline: "CV-22 crashes in Afghanistan, 4 dead." A short time later, I received another phone call from a different friend. I answered and said, "I saw the headlines, what can you tell me?" My friend simply said "it's Voas and JB." My heart sank and my mind reflected on those words I spoke just a short time ago...service, sacrifice, freedoms. During my tenure as an aerial gunner, I served with Maj. Randy Voas and SMSgt. J.B. Lackey. Although I briefly served with Major Voas, I've known JB for 14-years which included three assignments together.

A week later, at their memorial service, Col. Greg Lengyel, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, reflected on the word sacrifice. He stated that Webster's defines sacrifice as giving something up for the sake of something else. Major Voas and SergeantLackey, as well as two other patriots, Corporal Michael D. Jankiewicz and Ms. Reeta Sadozi, made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives for the sake of something else...the freedoms we cherish.

Soon, Memorial Day will offer Americans a chance to pause and reflect on the service of millions of men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice; however, as each day passes we are compelled to never forget them as we enjoy our daily lives. I hope one way that people reflect, and not just on Memorial Day, is through visibly displaying our Nation's Flag.

Shortly after 9-11, the landscape of communities and streets glistened with displays of our country's sacred emblem, Old Glory. To me, it seems as if the sparkles illuminating from the fifty stars have faded from our landscape, and I'm not sure why.

The crystal ball tells us that we will continue to be engaged in conflicts much like we were shortly after 9-11; however, the picture is fuzzy as to whether we will see overwhelming displays of patriotism and pride. It's clear that we would if we unfortunately experienced another devastating attack but please tell me that it doesn't need to come to that.

Fly our flag proudly as you bring credit and honor to our Nation and take care of each other in all your actions.