Note: This column appears in the 12/4 issue of The Glendale Star and the 12/5 issue of the Peoria Times
We hosted an attorney general a couple of weeks ago.
That would be my uncle, a lawyer from New Jersey who was recently promoted to Brigadier General of the Air Force. I have no idea what this means, but it did result in a big family party back home, so I know that it is at least as important as graduating the sixth grade. Of course, since his promotion, I have come to understand that this is probably the greatest professional accomplishment anyone from our family will ever experience. Unless you count my blog.
Having family visit was great. It was my uncle, his daughter and her fiancé, and they couldn’t wait to see us. And by “us” I mean the New York Giants, who also happened to be in town that weekend. Go figure.
Anyway, what’s the point of having an esteemed family member if you can’t exploit their hard-earned reputation for your own benefit? With that in mind, we kindly demanded that my uncle give us a tour of Luke Air Force Base. The farthest we had ever gotten to Luke was hearing the jets fly over our house at night, so this was going to be a real treat.
In fact, my uncle was equally looking forward to it. He had stayed at Luke while fighting the first Gulf War, and had not been back since. He did however, want to keep a low profile, so we went just as it was getting dark that night, and never got out of the car. When my uncle flashed his credentials at the gate and didn’t get the salute we were all expecting, he claimed the security guard was a “civilian.” Whatever. We got through.
I had no idea how immense the base is. It’s its own city. We drove to the back of the base in hopes of catching a fighter jet landing or taking off, and while we just missed seeing one land, just watching the jets sitting in the hanger was awe-inspiring. My uncle talked about engines and the differences between the F-16 and F-24, and I sat there pretending to know what he was saying, when really I was just happy to put a face to the noise that made me feel safe when I heard it overhead at night.
We drove past building after building, getting a quick lesson on Air Force protocol. My uncle became visibly upset when a certain Airman walked out of his barracks without his flight cap on (though he put it on one second later). We joked that he was an angry old general and should have shaken his fist out of the window, though we were all amazed at the discipline and attention to detail involved in being a member of our nation’s armed forces.
“This isn’t just a training base,” my uncle said. “It’s a mission base.” Nothing stuck with me more on that tour than those words. I felt so honored just to be there.
Of course, this is still my family we’re talking about here, so our final stop on base was at the duty free liquor store so my uncle could pick up tax-free beer for our Giants-Cardinals tailgate party later that weekend. And as I stood there in the sunshine that Sunday morning, enjoying a beer and my freedom, I felt like one lucky civilian.