Airman's Perspective

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eric Frantz
  • 22nd Operation Support Squadron
I have spent nearly four short years in the world's greatest Air Force. In this short time, my career has seen its share of adversity and achievements. I have many people to thank for this. Family, friends, co-workers are the obvious ones, but it's those who served before me are who I need to thank the most.

Without their sacrifice, I would not have been able to reach the goals I have set for myself. However, my career hasn't always been gumdrops and lollipops. Being the youngest of three boys, I never saw myself serving our country in the Air Force. I saw myself as a college boy getting a degree and a good paying job.

My brothers were always the ones I thought would be in the military. Christopher, my oldest brother, has served in the Navy since I was 14. Matthew, the middle child, always dreamed of being a Soldier every since he had his hands on his first military action figure, served in the Army.

At first, Matthew had signed up for the Marines and left for boot camp the first chance he got. During his training, he tore an Anterior Cruciate Ligament. He was sent to recuperate and after he was finally healed, he tore it again. He was medically discharged from the Marines and joined the Army one year later.

After underachieving for the first 19 years of my life, I felt as if I was backed into a corner. The biggest mistake of my life became the smartest decision of my life. I was arrested for underage drinking and could not pay the court fees. About one week before the court date, I broke down, told my brother and asked him for the money. He gave me an ultimatum.

"I see one of two things happening," my brother said. "Tell Mom and Dad about it and pray they help you, or I will give you the money under the condition that you join the Air Force."

I thought that decision was pretty easy.

I enlisted a month later. My infamous streak of mistakes continued while I was stationed at Misawa Air Force Base, Japan. I was on the complete opposite side of the world and away from everything I had ever known.

It was hard to resist the temptations of life. Even numerous Letters of Reprimand and an Article 15 didn't phase me. Nothing rang that bell in my head telling me to wake up and fly right. My supervisor, first sergeant and commander tried everything they could to help me. No one could help me except myself, or so I thought.

January 20, 2006 my brother Matthew was deployed to Al Hawijah, Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device. Four of the five riding in that vehicle died, including my brother. He was 23 years old.

Life has never been the same since I received that phone call from my oldest brother Christopher. My life and my career in the Air Force was slowly falling apart. For almost an entire year, every flag that was flown, every patriotic moment, every time I put on my uniform to go to work, every one I saw on the base broke my heart. I was constantly reminded of what happened.

When I finally got orders to change my station to McConnell, I sighed in relief then asked myself, "There is a base in Kansas?". It was a chance for a fresh start where I wouldn't remember my life as it was in Japan. There would be people around that didn't watch me almost self-destruct. There would be different supervision that wouldn't turn their backs on me. At first, I tried to live my life to make my brother proud of me, which I found was not the way to serve in the military. I now live my life to make my country proud of me.

I didn't fully make the switch to an Airman until I was deployed to Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan. I was able to see how big of an impact the smallest job makes on the mission. Until this point, seeing anyone in Army Combat Uniforms almost made me unnerved and ill to my stomach. While I was there, I had several conversations with many Soldiers about their experiences and it brought me peace of mind.

When I returned from my deployment, I vowed to finally live up to the potential in my life.

Shortly after I started to get settled back in my dorm room, my mother called me and told me to make sure I schedule leave as soon as possible because our family was going to go to The White House to meet the president. This was an experience that I will always remember for the rest of my life. Our family thought of this as a private matter, so we didn't tell hardly anyone.

The President of the United States wanted to meet my family and personally offer his words of condolence. Steve Buyer, Congressman of Indiana, arranged the opportunity for us. Once we did the standard sight- seeing, we met with Matthew's Battalion commander at Ft. Campbell. We received a personal tour of the Pentagon the commander spoke of Matthew in the highest regard.

The next day we were on our way to The White House with Congressman Buyer. Once at the gate on Pennsylvania Avenue, Congressman Buyer told the Secret Service, "The Frantz family is here to meet the President." No questions were asked, we just drove on through. It all seemed too surreal. I found myself riding in a car driving up to the West Wing and walking up the steps to the front door. We toured the White House with President Bush's personal advisor.

Our last stop on the tour was the Oval Office, where the President was waiting for us. I thought I would be more nervous than I was.
He spoke to us about his intention of the meeting. He doesn't have the chance to do this with every family of a fallen service member. He felt that it was important to meet us, because three brothers including my father presently serve in the military. It meant so much to me for the President to tell me how proud he was to have been Matthew's Commander in Chief.

Serving our country with the three core values that I was taught in basic training became much easier. I have been that troublesome Airman that supervisors hope they never have. I suffered a lost that I hope no one else has to experience. I have seen how much of an impact my contribution to the mission makes. I have also turned my career around in the world's greatest Air Force. Jan. 20 will always be a special day for my family and those close to us. I no longer hurry to my car at 5 p.m. because I don't want to get caught in retreat. Being patriotic isn't just flying a flag or taking your hat off when the National Anthem is played at sporting events. It is more than that. It is a tribute to those who have served in the military before us.

Freedom is no longer just a word. It is a way of life that men and women of our Armed Forces have given their life to uphold. I am humbled to serve next to each and everyone of my peers and with each passing day, I feel more honored and privileged to be apart of the Air Force.