Whether it’s working as a United States Air Force chaplain, a U.S. Army Apache helicopter pilot, an enlisted airborne infantryman, a husband or even a father, Matthew Mendenhall dedicated his career to loving and caring for others.
Maj. Matthew Mendenhall, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing chaplain, retired on October 1, 2021 after 28 years of serving his country, yet his legacy continues on with his son whom also serves in the U.S. Air Force.
Before officially retiring, Matthew completed his last duty as an officer in the Air Force re-enlisting his son, Staff Sgt. Ethan Mendenhall, 99th Healthcare Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician. Thus, extending the long blue line as we celebrate the 75thAnniversary of the U.S. Air Force.
“My grandpa served on active duty, my dad served in the Marine Corps on active duty, I served and honestly, it’s just a big part of who our family is,” Matthew said.
Ahead of joining the Air Force, Matthew carried on the family legacy by enlisting in the Army as an airborne infantryman and eventually became a warrant officer, earning his wings as an Apache pilot. Matthew embodied the Air Force’s core values before he even knew them.
He showed his integrity first through his courage and commitment during multiple deployments and put his service before himself as he sacrificed many seasons away from his family to serve his country.
As a young soldier he exceeded expectations at every level and proved his excellence in all he did as he transitioned from an enlisted member, to warrant officer, and commissioned to the ranks of an officer.
While Matthew’s military career progressed, a blue light inside of young Ethan began to flicker. This light would soon turn into a flame that burns like the fire inside of his father to serve.
Ethan traveled around the world as a dependent, following his dad’s career wherever it took them. His great grandfather, grandfather and his dad served and Ethan knew when he was old enough that he would serve too.
“I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps,” Ethan said. “He’s leaving behind a really awesome legacy and it’s my job to continue that.”
Matthew’s time serving this country may have come to an end but the family tradition of serving carries on through Ethan; a son turned Airman.
“My family has always served in some aspect,” Ethan said. “I think it’s really important that we carry on that tradition.”
The urge to volunteer for service, the drive to sacrifice, and the motivation to exceed in all they do runs in the veins of each member of their family whether they chose to serve or not. The Mendenhall’s are innovators who have passed on family traditions and as a result, carried service heritage with them.
Matthew believes leaving behind a legacy, means living life every day with the future in mind. One of the forefathers of the Air Force, Gen. Henry H. “Hap” Arnold said “We must think in terms of tomorrow.” These are the reasons Airmen are able to innovate, accelerate, and continue to thrive after 75 years.
Caring for others has always been a big part of Matthew’s life. He has lived every day with a purpose, on purpose. The retired chaplain served 28 years and hopes the legacy he is part of is great enough to be carried on for generations. The USAF is the world’s greatest Air Force because of the Airmen who have gone before — whether it be Ethan, his father, or any Airman who has served.
For more about Matthew’s background and story, visit https://www.aerotechnews.com/nellisafb/2018/09/07/from-helos-to-chapels-the-journey-to-helping-others-2/