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NEWS | Aug. 22, 2016

A source of pride: the title “Airman”

JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

While I am in uniform or on official business, I professionally introduce myself as “Senior Airman Krystal Wright” or just “Airman Wright” depending on the circumstance and situation.


Frequently, people then call me “Ms.” or just “Krystal” instead.


I have been told on numerous occasions, “Oh, you must be tired of always being called ‘Airman’ instead of your name. I’ll just call you Krystal,” without asking my opinion.


This creates very strong feelings within me.


To be honest and blunt, it is something that really bothers me. I find it disrespectful and rude because being an Airman – and a senior airman – is something I take pride in.


Being in the Air Force is exciting and is something I am passionate about. It was a childhood dream that I now live. It’s challenging and engaging. There is always something new to do, learn and experience. I love going to work each day – though I might grumble and groan before my morning caffeine fix.


The opportunities to grow and develop are staggering. It gives service members $4,500 annually as part of tuition assistance. It provides services to ensure we are emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually strong and stable. The Air Force also helps take care of my family, so I don’t worry and I'm able to focus on the mission.


I am part of a family that stretches across both the globe and decades. My brother and sisters in blue – and green and red – have my back, like I have theirs – even the ones I haven’t met yet. There is no doubt in my mind that, if things hit the fan, they will support me and I them.


As an Airman, I follow in the footsteps of selfless and heroic Airmen who left a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor. Each day, I try to do them proud and be worthy of their sacrifice.


The Doolittle Raiders volunteered for a dangerous mission without knowing the details. When their covert approach to Japan was possibly compromised, every single one launched early despite the fact there was no return plan and the mission was most likely suicidal unless they could somehow reach allies in Asia.


Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, whom my basic training dorm was named after, was a pararescueman who died March 2, 2002. Together with his team, he fought a 17-hour battle to rescue a Navy SEAL. During which time, he protected and gave treatment to wounded men. He relocated them three times despite becoming exposed to enemy fire, causing him to become fatally wounded himself. His actions posthumously earned him the Air Force Cross.


Then-Airman First Class John Levitow, AC-47 loadmaster, received more than 40 shrapnel wounds and his aircraft was severely damaged Feb. 24, 1969. A smoking magnesium flare landed among ammunition in the cargo bay and, although already wounded, he covered the flare with his own body, shielding it as he threw it out the aircraft’s door where it ignited harmlessly. That day he saved seven lives and earned the Medal of Honor.


Then-Lt. Lance Peter Sijan, pilot and combat systems officer, ejected from a damaged F-4C Nov. 9, 1967, over enemy territory. He preceded to avoid capture for 46 days despite having no food or survival gear and wounds, included a broken leg, hand, and skull fracture. When he was finally captured, he escaped then was recaptured and tortured for information that he did not give up. All the while, he continued to plan an escape. However, he later died from pneumonia at Hoa Lo Prison Jan. 22, 1968. His fellow prisoners of war later told his story, and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.


These individuals are just some of the brave – and sometimes tragically heroic – men and women who compose the world’s greatest Air Force.


Being frequently called “Airman” instead of “Krystal” isn’t a burden; it is a privilege I carry with pride as I try to live up to the great Airmen who came before me, Airmen who have given their all in defense of this country and its allies. It represents a tradition and legacy of honor, courage, excellence, integrity and sacrifice that I am humbled to be a part of.


It is an honorable title of respect I have earned through hard work, it represents what I have given up and potentially will willingly give up for my country and fellow countrymen.


So no, I don’t mind nor tire of being called “Airman.”


It is a term we service members have earned for our service and is something we willingly carry with pride.