While watching on television the horror of Sept. 11, 2001, my radio program engineer, Greg Nercessian -- newly married and planning to start a family -- felt he had to do something. With the blessing of his understanding and supportive wife, he joined the Air Force Reserves. Greg spent seven-and-a-half months in training, away from his then-pregnant wife. He returned home just 13 days before the birth of his son.
My engineer, now a senior airman working in Intelligence, invited me to March Air Reserve Base for "Operations Group Employer Appreciation Day" on Saturday, Oct. 23. With about one-half of our nation's total available military manpower consisting of Reserve components, the event was to thank employers for keeping open the jobs of those in the Reserve and Guard as our country deploys them. Greg told me that Appreciation Day consists of a tour, and possibly a brief flight to give us some idea of the never-ending training Reserves undergo to stay fit and ready.
Usually, after a long work-week, I look forward to sleeping in on Saturday mornings. But, after a few hours of sleep, I got up at 4 a.m. last Saturday for a two-hour drive to Riverside, Calif., east of Los Angeles. I found traffic, thankfully, light at that hour of the morning. After all, I felt quite fatigued -- but not for long.
During our employers' orientation, I sat next to a base employee. I told her about my two Vietnam-era brothers, and my father who served in World War II as a Marine. I said that I, like Vice President Dick Cheney and others, used college deferments during the Vietnam War. I told her I regretted not having served my country, considering the greatness of America and the opportunity it provides me. She said, "Well, people serve in many ways. You serve now by allowing your employee to go off while keeping his job open. And remember, we need civilians to remain stateside to run the country as others go off to war. So many may serve in different ways, and I consider you, sir, to be serving right now."