Westmont Magazine Be Proud
By Kathleen Jones ’89
I stepped off a plane in the United Kingdom on Aug. 11, 2001. Soon after having signed paperwork to extend in the United States Air Force, I was reassigned to RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk, England, where I now serve as a flight surgeon for the 352nd Special Operations Group. Little did I know that I had exactly one month to adjust to life in England and to “spin up” for duty with a special ops unit.
On September 11, 2001, I was living in field conditions with my squadron on a routine training exercise. We were in a locked-down exercise, meaning that we had no television, no radio, and no contact with the outside world.
As word of the terrorist attacks on the United States came in, our intelligence personnel and command staff briefed us. I watched the faces of the men and women around me as we listened with disbelief. Shock. Horror. Grief. Anger. Those emotions were experienced by all Americans. However, a change rolled over the faces I was observing. These are special forces personnel and they know exactly what is expected of them — of us. We returned to our home base in England and readied for orders from the commander-in-chief.
As is the case for all Americans, life will never be the same for these men and women. Their lives, and the lives of their families, have taken on a new mission and meaning.
I want you to know how proud you would be of these individuals. They have trained as they mean to fight. They are disciplined and talented, but above all else, they live each day knowing that their goal is to protect you and me. They deal with the constant state of high alert. Their families deal with the constant uncertainty and worry. They do it because they love the United States and her people.
I struggle to express to you the pride I have in these men and women. I suppose that it can best be summed up in the words of one young man who reports to duty each day saying, “Happy to be here. Proud to serve.” It’s not a platitude. It’s a statement of fact for him and for all those around him. You don’t know him, but he has offered his service and his life to defend the United States of America. Be proud.