A Homecoming for Idaho Heroes
by Brittany Sailors, photos by Tiffany Howard
Have you ever been at the Boise Airport and glanced across the runway? If so, you’ve likely seen the A-10 Thunderbolt, more affectionately known as the “warthog,” a time or two. What many community members don’t realize is that nearly 1,500 Idahoans support the aircraft’s mission as members of the Idaho Air National Guard, an organization that truly delivers on the core value of “Service Before Self.” While the A-10 may enjoy much of the limelight surrounding a major deployment, the real heroes are the Airmen who support the 124th Fighter Wing mission. They are the operators, maintainers, medical and support personnel. For most members, this means leaving behind a family and a full-time job for six months of long days, austere conditions, and intermittent connectivity to home and loved ones.
This summer, more than 500 of my fellow Idaho Guardsmen deployed in support of operations across the globe. These men and women are your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and fellow community members. Most are traditional guardsmen, who work full-time in civilian careers throughout the Treasure Valley. Many are teachers, firefighters, police officers, sales clerks, home builders, ranchers, accountants, and many others. In addition to their full-time employment, they have committed to serve their nation and state ensuring they are up to date on training that is required to maintain deployment readiness for the inevitable moment they are called to action.
When you ask a service member what they miss the most when they’re deployed, you’ll almost certainly hear, “family and friends.” Often too, you may hear that they also miss the vaguely familiar scent of their home, the comfort of their sweats on a Sunday morning, a quiet moment to themselves and mostly, their community. All these pieces of life are what help them keep faith while awaiting return. When the days, weeks, and months all blend together, they find solace in the memories that take them home, if only in their mind.
These Airmen do not fight for their country for the recognition, or thanks they may receive. They do so because they genuinely love their country and are proud to defend it. This fall the majority of the 124th Fighter Wing members will return from their deployed locations, with the remainder trickling back in over the next few months. Being away from home for an extended period can be difficult for anyone. However, the real test lies in finding their place again in a world that’s gone on without them for half a year or more. These members are highly dependent on the support of their family, community, and employers to make reintegration successful. That support has been in abundance since their departure months ago. The Treasure Valley and the local community as a whole have offered tremendous support. Spouses and retired members have also offered to help in any way needed.
Idaho Guardsmen, and those who reside here, are special people who truly embody what being a community is all about. Whether you are a member of the Idaho Air National Guard or not, every day the idea of “Service Before Self” is apparent. We are fortunate to call a place like Boise “home” and I challenge you to continually discover new ways to emulate the “Service Before Self” mantra.