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The value of family

Members of the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron participate in a military honors ceremony at Barrancas National Cemetery Naval Air Station, Pensacola Fla. Courtesy photo.

Members of the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron participate in a military honors ceremony at Barrancas National Cemetery Naval Air Station, Pensacola Fla. Courtesy photo.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I often tell people I am blessed with three families: my immediate family that includes my wife, children and relatives; my spiritual family that help me stay balanced and maintain my spiritual wellness, and my military family that includes my brothers and sisters in arms.

We all value our immediate family, our loved ones who support us daily, often live with us and are there with us from birth to death. Our support network of spouses, children, relatives, friends and local community around us keep us grounded. We all need to ensure we properly prioritize our immediate family--they deserve our attention and love even as we contribute to the mission.

We can all improve our family wellness by sharing quality time with our family or seeking the support you get from our vast network of resources. People often benefit from programs like "Key Spouse," Hearts Apart, "Give Parents a Break," Exceptional Family Member Programs and chaplain-hosted workshops like Marriage Enrichment or Singles night at the dorm.

Some, like me, also gain strength and wisdom from a spiritual family. My regular interaction with my family of faith provides me with role models of service-oriented living in a way that honors my faith. In my case, my spiritual family helps ease the transition of my children every time we move. Maintaining a positive outlook on life is part of our spiritual wellness - it keeps us going, motivated and confident in our abilities.

While I find that support at a church, it is not limited to the places where our chaplains work.  Developing an essence of hope and a purpose in life is essentially the foundation of spiritual wellness. It's the time you take for yourself that strengthens you as a person so that you can best serve the families in your life.

Finally, I feel especially blessed to be a member of the military family. Many of us are closer to members of our military family than some people are to their own relatives. We serve our nation together, uphold standards and make sacrifices together, and we maintain friendships even as we move literally all over the world. I have always worked to reinforce the value and importance of the military family because it means so much to me.

Over the last few months I was inspired by the Airmen at Eglin and their devotion to the concept of military family. I watched with humility as the 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron, petroleum, oil and lubricants flight, cared for a dying member of their family--Tech. Sgt. Eric Olafsen. Only 39 years old, Eric was diagnosed with cancer on Dec. 15 and was laid to rest five weeks later.

During that period, he was supported by his flight, his squadron and his base. At funeral services in Pensacola, Eric was surrounded not only by his immediate family, but by his military family, over 100 Airmen in service dress.

During the same months, I also watched with pride as Airmen from the 96th Security Forces Squadron and 96th Logistics Readiness Squadron provided support to a retired Airman, Lt. Col. Jack Dale, suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. The military family extends beyond retirement dates--we learn from our elders and they mentor us regardless of service or status.

The two squadrons visited Jack during his dying days because they knew Jack as someone who was a part of their "family." Over the last 18 months Jack visited their squadrons and Eglin regularly, especially to be there whenever our team sent off his military family to deployment. Jack had never met these warrior family members before; he was only related to them by a common bond of service. These young Airmen stood by Jack's side as he died and was buried Jan. 18.

Our families are a blessing and a responsibility. I try to take time daily to say thanks for my families and I also pause to reflect on what I owe them. I hope you will join me in a renewed effort to take care of those who care for us.

Thank you for your service to Eglin and our nation.

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