Today’s Airmen serve generations yet unborn

By Commentary by Maj. Joel Fortenberry, 509th Contracting Squadron commander
Posted Tuesday, April 12, 2005

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WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFPN) -- Leon Alton Palmer was born April 27, 1945, in Mableton, Ga., the son of Nelly and Arvel Palmer. On Aug. 17, 1968, Sgt. Leon A. Palmer, C Company, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, was killed in Gia Dinh Province, South Vietnam. He was 23 years old and left behind a daughter, Linda, and son, Tony.

Over 8,000 miles away on that same August Saturday, I was born in Tyler, Texas. I was born free and have known nothing but freedom for all 36 years of my life.

On Sept. 15, 2003, Army Staff Sgt Kevin C. Kimmerly, of North Creek, N.Y., was killed when his vehicle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade while on patrol in Baghdad. Later that same day, far from the chaos of Iraq, my son was born in Dayton, Ohio. He was born free and has known nothing but freedom for all 19 months of his short life.

Because you serve today, on the flight line or off, in a flight suit, BDUs or civilian clothes, a child whose name you may never know was born free. Because you repaired a network or guided a convoy, because you corrected a personnel record and made sure Airmen were paid, because you stood watch at the base perimeter, because you built a base exchange facility in the desert, because you wrote the contract and repaired a runway, because you flew a mission or repaired the aircraft with unmatched skill and expertise, a child was born free today.

What an honor and privilege we have in this Air Force and this nation to ensure freedom is the birthright to new generations of Americans. Because of you, a child was born free today in Tyler, Texas; in Dayton, Ohio; in towns all over this country. But also because of you, children were born free today in cities called Kabul and Bagram, Baghdad and Tallil. Freedom isn’t earned and its survival isn’t guaranteed. Rather freedom is given to us by the grace of God and the character of those willing to sacrifice all to see it live on. Those like Leon Palmer, Kevin Kimmerly and you. Thank you.

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