Commentary

June 29, 2012

Celebrating freedom with pride this July 4th

by Chief Master Sgt. David VanVlack
AFOTEC, Det. 1, outgoing superintendent

This story starts 11 days before the 4th of July on June 25, 1996. I was in the U.S. Air Force, deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

On that night, I was bare-chested, clad in jeans and tennis shoes as I turned my back to a sliding glass door. The 25,000-pound truck bomb threw me to the floor. My neck, back and arms were ripped apart with glass and concrete. The wounds were serious but didn’t hit any vital organs. I was medically evacuated home.

By July 2, I was healing well, still covered in bandages, but kicking with energy. Much to the surprise of many, I went out and bought $500 in fireworks. The truth is I was pretty confused and thinking of walking away, but I planned to celebrate our freedom with pride.

On the 4th, as I lit off thousands of firecrackers, a young boy approached me. Seeing the bandages, he asked, “What happened?” I told him some terrorists blew up a bomb to try and scare us away. Wide-eyed, he said, “Wow, what are you going to do?” I told him I was planning on calling it quits. He cocked his head to the side in deep thought and then said, “Well then, I guess if you quit, they win.” That young boy changed my life; there was no way I would let them win.

That was 16 years ago, and at almost 27 years of service, I am still on active duty. Every 4th of July, I think back to that young man and his words of wisdom and I celebrate the freedom of our Nation with great pride and joy.




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