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The honor of service

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In 1961 President John F. Kennedy said "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." This inspired a wave of volunteerism in the 1960s. 

Today, those concepts of service were echoed by President Barack Obama who called on citizens to serve the nation in the military or public sector. This call to service is no less compelling and has stirred new feelings of patriotism and volunteerism during a time of war and economic downturn. 

Service comes in many forms: From the vigilant security guard at the gate, the contractor on the operations floor, the civilian executing a communication upgrade or the military member deployed to hostile lands. These acts of service make the military successful and help strengthen the nation. 

Since the elimination of the draft and the normalization of the all-volunteer force, those who serve in the military do so by choice. Every day thousands of people devote themselves to protecting our freedoms, maintaining peace, providing relief and supporting US policy around the globe, while sacrificing their own comfort and possibly their life. It is a conscious choice that people have made to help others. Military service is a calling, those who have answered the call do so willingly and with some sacrifice. 

For many Americans, the benefits of military service can be tremendous: training, honor, education, travel, pay and self-discovery. However, military service is not for everyone. It requires self-discipline, intense physical work, mental challenges and time away from family and friends while protecting America and its citizens at home and abroad. For some, these commitments impose too great a burden. 

The concept of service is integral to the military profession and the Air Force is no exception. The Air Force Core Values, institutionalized in 1997, call on all Airmen to internalize concepts of integrity, service and excellence. The United States Air Force Core Values booklet, commonly referred to as the "Little Blue Book," defines the core values of the Air Force. The core value, service before self, is described as the need for professional duties to take precedence over personal desires. Air Force members are expected to follow the rules, respect others, maintain discipline and self control and have faith in the system. The success of the military rests on each and every person that serves. The American people trust the military to serve the nation well and faithfully. Those who are unable to serve well degrade our military capability and erode public trust. The price of admission into the Air Force is high and the conditions to remain are no less stringent. All who serve, in any capacity, should take pride in being part of an institution dedicated to the betterment of its fellow Americans. 

Service remains the cornerstone of our military profession. The profession of arms is steeped in sacrifice, commitment and tradition. To all those who have answered the nation's call to serve, continue to serve honorably and faithfully. For those who do not serve, take time to recognize and appreciate the sacrifices others have made to protect and defend our freedoms. It is a privilege to serve the United States and the people who make this country great. Take time to appreciate and respect your service and those who serve in any and all capacities.