AFMAO: A new definition of service

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jayden Ford
  • Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

As we approach Memorial Day, I find myself reflecting on what led up to this point in my career and what serving at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations means to me — now having the opportunity to support the Department of Defense’s closest mission to what this day honors.

As a young Airman stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, I did not understand what sacrifice truly meant. To me, sacrifice meant accomplishing the mission no matter what. It meant long days, little sleep and time away from my wife and kids.

We do this because that is what we signed up for and what we hold dear as an organization — integrity first, service before self and excellence in all that we do.

It wasn’t until recently that I truly understood what sacrifice looked like.

Now, sacrifice to me looks vastly different. It appears as a flag-draped transfer case in the back of an aircraft. It looks like seven service members marching slowly toward a transfer vehicle as they carry our fallen service member with precision and grace. It looks like a solemn movement, expertly coordinated to ensure that no matter the situation, this service member is cared for in a way that fits the price they paid for all of us — the ultimate sacrifice.

In these moments, time stands still and nothing else matters but the dignity, honor, and respect that we show for that service member and the care, service, and support we provide to the families. In these moments, everyone knows what it means to sacrifice.

As a public affairs specialist, I get the opportunity to talk and work with the people who make this mission happen — those who would do whatever it takes to ensure that our fallen service members and their families are taken care of in the worst moments of their lives.

I used to think that sacrifice meant giving up things we held dear to ensure we could accomplish something greater than ourselves. Now, after working with my fellow Airmen here at AFMAO and seeing the care they put into making this mission happen and after seeing the most authentic sacrifice a person can make, I know what sacrifice means.

As we reflect, we must not forget those who have paid this price. The ones who carried this nation until their last moments.

While this day for many is the unofficial start of summer and cause for celebration, we also pause to honor and to remember the bravery and service those who have fallen showed to maintain our freedom — ones that served to protect our way of life.

“The brave die never, though they sleep in dust,” said Minot J. Savage. “Their courage nerves a thousand living men.”