U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. --
(Editor's note: The exact text contained on pages 157-158 of this year's edition of The Contrails is seen here.)
Over two hundred years ago, the first thread of the uniform I wear was woven. While great men and women dreamed of a country of free people, the army and navy that would win her liberty had already begun to organize. As the fledgling country grew stronger, so did its uniform develop. Each button and ribbon that has been added through the years boasts of victory at sea, conquests on land, and some of the military aviator’s greatest successes. The added medals and insignia laud moments of heroism known to us all. I wear the uniform of my country because, as America is a blend of races and cultures, my uniform is a woven, visual history of her people’s courage, determination, and unique love of freedom.
Without a word this uniform also whispers of freezing troops, injured bodies, and Americans left forever in foreign fields. It documents the courage of all military personnel, who by accepting this uniform, promise the one gift they truly have to give: their lives. I wear my uniform for the heritage of sacrifice it represents and more.
No factor in America’s growth has been greater than the men and women who have worn her uniform to help keep her strong. In war and in peace, they have circled the Earth and journeyed to the moon, always carrying America’s ideals with them. Their service to her has been a legend of honor.
I wear my uniform with pride for it represents the greatest nation of free people in the world. America serves as an example to those who strive to be free. They recognize this uniform as standing for millions of Americans who respect their world neighbors and wish to live in peace with them.
My uniform is an extension of my people and my nation. Most importantly, I wear the uniform of my country because others do not. America’s freedom is a right given by God, but defended by her citizens. It is our overwhelming responsibility to preserve our heritage of freedom for all Americans and I accept that challenge willingly.
I wear the uniform of my country because of its history, its heritage of honor, its service to America, its representation of my people, and because of my desire to live in a free land.
Hopefully, I wear this uniform in peace. But America’s enemies must know that I will also stand fearlessly in war as those before me have stood. I pray only that I do not stand alone.
Karen D. Kimmel, Ph.D., and Colonel, USAF (ret) is a member of the Senior Faculty at the Federal Executive Institute and former curriculum writer at the Leadership Development Center, US Coast Guard Academy. She wrote The Uniform of My Country when she was a young officer in the USAF while assigned to 57th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, 375th Airlift Wing, Scott AFB, IL. USAFA included portions of her essay in Contrails since the early 1980s.