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"Rizzys Coin." (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)
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The priceless reward of service – a simple thank you

Posted 4/16/2010   Updated 4/16/2010 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Bruce McClintock
96th Air Base Wing commander

4/16/2010 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Some people question the value of service in our nation's military or whether we adequately compensate our warriors. I always remind our Airmen that the opportunity to serve our nation and a cause greater than ourselves is a priceless reward. I saw a concrete example of that priceless reward this weekend.

In the midst of Eglin's largest open house in its 75-year history, I paused to soak in the magnitude of the event. The open house planning team had worked for months to showcase our nation's warriors and their resources.

We were all exhausted from the first day of the show where the crowd of 80,000 was double previous attendance of any event at Eglin. As I sat in the bleachers I watched as an older man encouraged his young daughter to approach me.

"Rizzy" Wieser, a 9-year-old from south Florida, walked up to me, next to my own 9-year-old daughter. Rizzy paused in front of me and then crisply saluted me with her small hand and in a meek voice she said: "Thank you for being my soldier."

She then handed me a small golden coin -- a symbol in the military of recognition or appreciation. I returned her salute, thanked her, and presented her with a commander's coin in appreciation for her kindness.

Rizzy attended Eglin's 75th Anniversary Open House and Air Show with her coins engraved with "I Salute You." I later spoke to her father, a retired school teacher with no military experience.

He said he had taught his daughter the importance of freedom and the sacrifices made by the men and women in the military. He had begun three years ago by having Rizzy salute military members from their nearby Air Force base. He recently had begun having Rizzy provide the coins as well.

Rizzy saluted and coined a variety of military members Sunday, from the base commander to an Airman emptying trash cans. She did not recognize rank or service, but she did recognize the service that freedom demands. She did not know Eglin has 631 deployed warriors or Hurlburt Field lost two warriors in combat last week, but she knew how to say thank you.

Out of all of the 137,000 people that visited Eglin this weekend, Rizzy had the largest impact on me. Rizzy inspired and motivated countless warriors this weekend through her simple act of gratitude.

For those of us who choose to serve in the military profession, we can always look to the image of Rizzy for why we serve and who we serve. Whether it's hand delivered coins from a little girl named "Rizzy" or a few kind words from a passing stranger - the effervescent support of the nation sustains us through the best of times and worst of times because it is a priceless gift of gratitude.

5/18/2010 9:06:31 PM ET
Col. McClintock, Rizzy and her father recently came to Andrews for our Air Show. I was part of a team of public affairs specialists on the base who covered this and many other stories last weekend. Seeing what Rizzy did to salute our Airmen and other servicemembers was moving. I was assigned to write this story. Also linked your commentary to the story. Mr. Wieser told me about it. Respectfully, Staff Sgt. Steve Lewis 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs U.S. Air Force Reserve
Staff Sgt. Steve Lewis, 459th Air Refueling Wing
4/22/2010 11:25:10 AM ET
Hello Colonel McClintock, My daughter and I visited the air show a few weeks ago at Eglin and we had a great visit. The show gave us another opportunity to have contact with our soldiers and that gave my daughter a chance to salute and present them with one of her Thank You coins. I appreciate the kind words you gave to us after Rizzy gave you one of her coins. Responses such as yours have given us encouragement to go to other military base open houses and to continue saluting soldiers. We are planning a trip to the Washington D.C. area in May and then a trip out west to a base in Colorado as long as our budget holds out. This past weekend we attended the Sun and Fun Air Show in Lakeland Florida and were surprised on how many soldiers were there at this non-military show. The Thunderbirds Flew there. As long as Rizzy still says she wants to continue doing this we will. It has provided a great foundation for her education about this great nation and the men and women who serve in the
Bill Wieser, Tampa FL
4/20/2010 10:09:10 AM ET
I have never been so moved by a single act of gratitude. Rizzy's coin was the first one I received since retiring in September 2009. When Rizzy first coined me, I really didn't take the time to let the moment sink in. This article brought me to tears and to Rizzy I say this... For YOU I'd do it all over again.
Ernest LeGrande, Eglin AFB FL
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