Stories behind the names

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NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — One night I was driving to my residence in base housing when my kids started asking questions.
If you have kids or have been around kids for more than two minutes, you know they ask a lot of questions — which I am used to fielding and happily answering. If you ask my kids (or my wife), I think I know everything or I make something up that sounds like it could be right.
But on this particular evening, I didn’t have an answer for them. Their question: who are all the streets on base housing named after?
If you’ve ever been in the Nellis Air Force Base housing area, you know there are 827 streets that are all named after Air Force/aviation pioneers. OK, there’s really only 49 streets not counting any of the ones on the main base side; but seriously, I never realized there were that many and all were named after someone.
Their question also got me thinking about all of the people behind the names you see on an Air Force base on a daily basis. Think of all the street signs, buildings and monuments around base. Even bases themselves are named after Air Force and aviation legends.
Don’t get me wrong, thanks to promotion testing I know a little about Airman heritage just from reading the Professional Development Guide. So when I see names like Chapman, Cunningham, Wilkinson, Pitsenbarger, Erwin and Vosler, I know a little about why their great names are being honored.
I’m sure most of you have read or heard a little about these heroes, but have you really thought about their actions or their back-stories? These men were more than just names in the PDG — they were husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, friends, co-workers, etc., who were living and serving, and performed a heroic deed, and in some cases multiple heroic deeds.
I know it’s hard to know the personal history behind every street or building on base; but next time you’re driving through the Simons Gate, think about Tech. Sgt. Wesley Simons: a 99th Security Forces Squadron leader who was in charge of a traffic control cordon and noticed one of his Airmen didn’t have a reflective vest so he gave them his own. Working the cordon, Simons moved to fill a gap and was struck by a speeding motorist and died. Simons is unfortunately just one of many Nellis AFB Airmen who have given their lives in service to our great nation.
If you’ve ever been in the U.S. Air Force Weapons School’s facility, you’ll see names like Boyd, Suter, White and Waxman. Without a doubt, the Air Force would not be the best in the world without these giants.
I say all this to help you realize that the street you’re driving on, the building you’re working in, or the gate you’re passing through is named after someone who gave their blood, sweat, tears, and in many cases, the last breathes in their bodies so we could do what we do today.