Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

To be completely honest,  I was always a bit afraid of the military. To the outsider, these men and women seemed gruff and emotionless. They dedicated time to physical fitness and cleaning their weapons. They lived in tents across oceans and fought bad guys in the desert. They got yelled at and sometimes humiliated. Who would voluntarily sign up for all that?

After college, I nervously accepted a position in Alabama working literally side by side with these fine Americans. We were mixed together: civilian and military, pilots and engineers, green suit and flight suit. But though this lens, over 3.5 years, I grew to absolutely love these guys (I say guys, just because there really weren't any girls in my group). These men that I used to be so afraid of took care of me, embraced me, and fought for me. They weren't emotionless - they were inspiring. Some of their stories were absolutely gut-wrenching but I'm so thankful I got to hear them. Their patriotism, even when times were tough, was unwavering ... and it made me so proud to call them peers.

I still talk to many of these guys on about a weekly basis. Even though I'm 1,000 miles away in Texas, they still care about me. Working with them was a completely different environment than working in my space station office now. I mean it had to be - I had to list one of them as the person I would like to deliver the news to my family if something were to happen. We all knew some of the testing we did was risky, some of the helicopters we flew were completely redesigned, and some of the equipment required dangerous maneuvers. We all had to trust each other, and even though not all of us were military, when we stepped on that aircraft together we were a cohesive team - more than office partners, we all knew that our duties that day may go far beyond recording data and tracking test points.

I am honored for the short time I had with these heroes. In some small way, maybe the work I helped with will one day save a flight crew. But the work they do on a daily basis continues to grant us freedom. Love you guys, you know who you are.

Night vision testing, thankful for good pilots, heavy goggles, and finger-lights!

Did I mention trust? This was my view from the jump seat.