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Serving with honor

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines stand out from the rest of society for a number of reasons: The way we look and dress; our language, terms and phrases we use; our ranks and terms of address; the rules and regulations which govern our conduct and behavior; and most important, our unique customs and traditions. 

The one thing we have in common is we have all chosen to serve and by doing so we sacrifice "the normal of a day-to-day life" for a higher calling. 

Many of us joined the military for different reasons, yet the commitment to serve is the common bond to ensure we continue to operate as the world's best Air Force. 

Service before self is one of the Air Force's core values, and the fact that we are an all volunteer force means we chose to serve. We have all answered our nation's call and in doing so have exemplified service before self by putting our lives on the line for our country. 

The Air Force we serve is the most lethal air and space force in the world, and it is only 60 years young. That's because all of the Airmen, NCOs, officers and civilians give their all every day and are the best at what they do. 

It's humbling to be surrounded by men and women who daily put the needs and priorities of others ahead of their own by choosing to serve. 

The reason you chose to be a member of the military may have changed over the years, but the willingness to serve is what makes our military, our Air Force and our nation what it is today - the best. 

Service comes with a price; we must be willing to hold ourselves to a higher standard of personal and professional behavior because we are part of a higher calling that represents something bigger than ourselves. 

We must conduct our lives with integrity and ensure we are good citizens both on and off duty and be ready to fight any hour of the day or night when called by our nation. 

We must also honor those who came before us and those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy. Remembering our veterans brings honor to their sacrifice, yourself, your family, the uniform you wear and our nation. Serving with honor is what each of us should strive for. 

September is a time to reflect on the 60 years that the Air Force has been flying, fighting and winning, and what it means to each of us to serve this great nation every day. 

Remember, what you do and how you represent yourself and our country makes a difference. Never forget Sept. 11, 2001, when 3,030 people were killed by terrorism in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. 

Also remember what President George Bush said Sept. 14, 2001, while standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center towers, "I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear from all of us soon." 

The terrorists have heard, and are still hearing from us. They're hearing from us as our Air Force defends the homeland directly in Operation Noble Eagle. 

They heard from us as we took the battle to the terrorist strongholds of Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom: More than 400 Americans have given their lives while bringing down the tyranny of the Taliban and crushing the terrorist training camps of Al-Qaida. 

They're hearing from us as we advance the cause of freedom and democracy. We brought down the sadistic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein in Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

More than 3,600 Americans have died and 27,000 American fighting men and women have been wounded in stabilizing that country. 

Your service is crucial; you are a vitally important part of the bigger mission of defending our homes, defending America, defeating terrorism, and advancing the cause of the universal ideals of human dignity and freedom. 

As our Airman's creed states, "You have answered your nation's call". You are an inspiration to this country and your service keeps the wheels of freedom turning everyday. 

And so I encourage you to continue to work hard, with a strong sense of purpose. Work safely and to standard. Concentrate. Stay focused. Never forget that we are at war. Your service is important!