Giving thanks to Americans for what they give us

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Leslie A. Knight
  • 374th Medical Operations Squadron commander
Have you ever noticed those AFN commercials where famous people and ordinary Americans thank the military for their service? How do you feel when you see those? Hopefully, you feel glad that most Americans are grateful for what you do. You should be proud that you volunteered to serve the greatest country in the world in a capacity that most Americans never will.

When I see those commercials, I think I'm the one who should be thanking them. I have been on the public dole since kindergarten and I am ever mindful that if it were not for the American taxpayers, I might be flipping burgers right now.

I am a product of the Maryland public school system. I got a full scholarship to a Maryland public University. After they called me one night at work and asked me why I had not accepted a position there yet, I told them I had gotten accepted to all four of the schools I applied to and I was going to whichever one gave me the most money. The following week I got the letter inviting me to attend on scholarship.

In college, I realized I wanted to become a physician and I couldn't afford medical school. The first school I interviewed with insisted that my parents' income be taken into account. I told them that I got 50 bucks and three bags of groceries in four years of college and there was no way they were paying for medical school.

I ended up at the Uniformed Services University, where students from every military service not only go to medical school for free, but they get a salary as a second lieutenant for four years while in school. Since then I have been a public servant, earning a paycheck on the backs of the American taxpayers and trying to pay back what the American people have so graciously given me.

Many of you may have similar stories, but you all have two things in common: you earn a salary that is paid for by the American public and you have the opportunity to go to college on the GI bill -- again at the expense of the American taxpayer. If you decide to give our great country 20 years of your life, it repays you by providing you a pension and medical care for the rest of your life.

So, the next time someone thanks you for your service, be proud that you are an American Airman, and also be grateful for what the American people have so generously given to us.