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Opinion: Viewing news from the ‘other side’

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Well, today (July 28) was a bit different for me. I, along with several hundred others, witnessed the change of command for Air Force Global Strike Command on Barksdale Air Force Base. The guidon was passed from Lt. Gen. Steven Wilson to Gen. Robin Rand. General Mark Welsh, Air Force Chief of Staff performed the ceremony, and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James was on hand as well.

As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, I have attended (and worked) several change of command ceremonies. As a member of the news media, I have even covered one or two.

But today was different.

In my position as incoming Chairman of the Board for the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, I was a member of the “Distinguished Visitors” section. I had no duties — no trusty camera. I was just in the audience.

DavemugWitnessing such a major event as a “civilian” was exciting and uncomfortable at the same time. While I was surrounded by colleagues and peers, many of whom had served in the military, I felt out of place. Two of my worlds were colliding and I wasn’t sure how to handle it.

When Ruffles and Flourishes announced the arrival of the distinguished Generals, it was all I could do not to “present arms” with a military salute.

The remark of Gens. Welsh, Wilson and Rand reminded my why I served in the first place. The awesome responsibility of being the “best military on the face of the planet” was evident. I remembered the sacrifices my generation made (and continue to make) for freedom around the world. In some small way, I longed to be part of that number once again. When called upon, the U.S. military does an awesome — often unheralded — job. Today reminded me of that.

The elevation of AFGSC to a 4-Star is no small feat. While nothing in the world of politics is a “sure thing” or “protected,” Barksdale’s clout was just raised significantly.

As a community we are truly blessed to have Barksdale as our number one employer. While we do an excellent job of expressing that — and supporting the base — there is always more than can be done.

In my role at the Chamber, I know of countless opportunities to support Barksdale, its mission, the airman and their families. I encourage my fellow businessmen and women, along with the resident of our area, to do all you can to show your appreciation for our military. While a “thank you” and a handshake are nice and necessary, it should not stop there.

The sacrifices made my military families are great. And support from the community should not be considered “out of the ordinary.”

While Gen. Rand is receiving plenty of folks saying, “Welcome to Barksdale,” I would like to say, “Welcome to northwest Louisiana.” We are truly thankful for the blessing that Air Force Global Strike Command is to our communities, our military and to freedom around the globe.

David Specht is President of Specht Newspapers, Inc. He can be reached at dspecht@bossierpress.com