If you were fortunate enough to be in Biloxi, MS for our 23rd annual reunion then you witnessed one of the most heart-wrenching-moments in the history of our reunions. I’m talking about the Salute to our Spouse or Significant other that was presented. Dave Chitwood ‘s presentation of the salute was as one of the wives pointed out, very touching. She went on to say “I have never had a personal thank you like that ever in my life! I was moved to tears because it was so true and so sweet the way he presented it to everyone. I just want him to know how much that meant to so many of us”.
The presentation was so emotional that it brought many of the wives to tears, especially Shirley Farkas who lost her husband several years ago. And, according to a comment received from Steve Wyatt, the moment was so emotional the bartender was even in tears!
When I wrote the draft version of the speech I had hoped all or most of our widowed spouses would attend the reunion so we could honor them. I sent a personal invitation to our reunion to every widowed spouse that I had an email or street address for but unfortunately, Shirley was the only widow to attend. What a shame, I’m sure every one of those ladies would have thoroughly enjoyed our salute.
As a token of our appreciation for the support and sacrifices our spouses made during our careers, each spouse in attendance was given a $25 See’s gift card.
Below is the salute that was presented at our reunion.
A Salute to the USAF PE/SE/ALS/AFE Spouses and Significant Others
By Bob McElwain & Dave Chitwood
I think we can all say we loved our time in the USAF. I know I did: the camaraderie, the travel, getting to live in a different country and making friends all over the world, just to name a few. And the good times? There were many.
We honor our military on a daily basis for their service to our country. They lay their lives on the line and some made the ultimate sacrifice. But, what about the other half – the support network – wives, husbands, children, loved ones, family members who get left behind all too often!
Today we honor and salute you, the USAF PE, SE, ALS, AFE Spouses, and Significant others.
You wore no uniform, no blues or the old green fatigues. But ever since you said, “I do” and joined your spouse, you were in the military. You had no rank upon your shoulders, but you were a vital part of the US Air Force!
Remember how adjusting to military life took you on a journey that changed your lifestyle? You found being a military spouse was one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. There were times when you would be alone for months and times when you felt bored, stressed, or overwhelmed.
That’s because the USAF decided it needed your spouse in some foreign land where you couldn’t go.
While your spouse or partner was somewhere across international borders putting aircrew lives in their hands with the flight equipment he was responsible for, or the training he provided, your job at home was just as respected and significant.
You epitomized, in your every action, the concept of multi-tasking as you managed the family – played both mother and daddy, sometimes holding down your own job, all while your spouse was on an isolated tour of duty, TDY or deployed.
We wished we could have been there to support you during those trying times, but we were not. For all the tears, loneliness, and sacrifices you went through, we salute you.
We salute you for the many times you spent smiling during goodbyes, and crying as soon as you got to your car.
We salute you for becoming handier with a tool kit than you ever anticipated because everything seems to breakdown while we’re in the middle of a TDY or deployment.
We salute you for planting roots and making a new city “home” only to pull those same roots up 24-36 months later.
If you were a career spouse how many different addresses and jobs did you have? Four? Six? Ten? For that, we salute you for appearing unstable when seeking employment.
We salute you for never knowing what to say when someone asked where home is.
We salute you for all the birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays you spent alone.
We salute you for accepting the fact the military was your husband’s mistress and sometimes it got all the attention.
Now, look around. You and your spouse find yourselves enjoying retirement and civilian life again. And as time goes by, every now and then you realize there were parts of the military that you truly miss. So, you and your spouse decide to attend our reunions to rekindle old friendships.
It’s great seeing you guys year after year. And for that, we thank and salute you for allowing your spouse or significant other to attend these reunions. ?
And then one day some of you found yourselves widowed. Whether through unexpected or anticipated circumstances, the transition from spouse to widow, has been painful and overwhelming.
We would like Shirley Farkas to please stand and come forward. Shirley, although your spouse is no longer with us, he will never be forgotten nor will his sacrifices and what they meant to the career field. We will not forget you either so don’t you forget us. We truly hope you will forever consider us a significant member of your extended family and will continue to participate in our reunions or at least keep in touch.
Now, we would like all spouses and significant others gathered here today, who were together during those difficult military years, to please come forward to accept a small token of our appreciation for the sacrifices you made during your spouse’s or significant other’s military career and allow us to salute you.
Thank you so much! Salute!