Intangibles make world of difference

by Master Sgt. Trae King
39th Mission Support Squadron

You can’t imagine the horror I felt Dec. 16 when I received a call at 4 p.m. saying I needed to get home because my house was on fire. As I hung up the receiver and rushed out of the building, I could hear fire truck sirens coming from every direction.
My heart was beating fast as I raced from housing. I could only think of the worst-case scenario — my home was completely destroyed or even worse, my 14-year-old daughter was hurt.
As I turned the corner, I saw fire trucks, police cars, an ambulance and people standing around. Feverishly, I drove through the traffic to reach my home. When I arrived, I saw smoke coming out of the front door and all the windows. My heart dropped until I saw my daughter standing at the neighbor’s house covered with soot, but physically unharmed.
After the fire department extinguished the fire, I was allowed to go into the house to see the damage. The stove, surrounding cabinets and appliances were completely destroyed. Black smoke filled the house, covering most of my furniture, carpets, walls and clothes. Distraught by the damages and potential cost of the repairs, I wondered how I could get my home back in order.
Nine days before Christmas, I found myself living at billeting and my house in shambles.
This is where my Air Force family made the difference.
As a prior career adviser, I know numerous factors play into an airman’s decision to stay or separate from the military. As an 18-year career airman, I realize now that it’s not always benefits that motivate people to re-enlist. Air Force intangibles are equally as important and play a big part in our decision.
Within hours, my Air Force family was already coming up with a plan to help my daughter and I restore normalcy to our lives. I received numerous calls from people who wanted to lend a hand, financial assistance, words of encouragement or a prayer.
A young airman in my unit took it upon herself to get a card and have others sign and make donations to replace some of my damaged items. This act of kindness and concern floored me.
In addition, my supervisor (a first lieutenant) and my flight commander (a captain) came by dressed in sweats, grabbed some buckets, rags and scrub brushes, and removed some soot from the walls. No big deal you say? Well it was, especially since the captain was scheduled to be at a Christmas party that evening and my supervisor’s husband had just returned from a three-month TDY. Everyone in my unit, along with others in the 39th Civil Engineer Squadron played a part and helped me get my home restored and back in order.
Friends and people in the community offered assistance and/or provided gifts to restore items lost due to the fire.
Christmas Day, just nine days after the fire, I was able to move back into my home. No benefit the Air Force offers could match the love my Air Force family displayed to me. My co-workers and friends here showed me that people are truly the Air Force’s No. 1 asset.