Family an Air Force priority

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Eric Nelson
  • 4th Operations Group commander
God first, family second, and everything else a distant third. The Air Force places a great deal of emphasis on family. It has been said that we recruit individuals but retain families.

The military service offers family counseling, family health care plans, job fairs for dependent spouses, day care for dependent children, and provides recreation areas for families to spend time together.

Unfortunately, commanders and first sergeants must still spend much of their time dealing with "failing families." Spouse abuse, child abuse, troubled teens and divorce are real-time issues that impact a unit's ability to accomplish the mission. Programs can assist our families but are no substitute for individuals taking personal responsibility for honoring their commitment to their spouses, parents, and children. Since a family begins with a husband and wife, general order number one is "Stick with it!"

Till death do us part. Kimberly and I made this traditional vow to each other as part of our wedding ceremony to voice our commitment to stay together no matter what life threw at us, and we've seen the spectrum; richer/poorer, better/worse, sickness/health and teenagers! Our grown children joke that mom and dad may have contemplated murder, but never divorce. We've cussed, fussed, and wrestled. At the peak of high energy marital debate, I've used my cat-like reflexes to dodge normal household items flying near the speed of sound. This unyielding and inflexible commitment has anchored us through many storms as well as 11 permanent change of station moves in 20 years of service. It has created a certainty in our lives that has allowed our children to prosper and has given us freedom to serve the Air Force in a richer capacity.

One day I will die, as all men do. After that, all that will remain of Eric Nelson will be the memories that others hold. If I am remembered for anything greater than loving my wife, Kimberly, more than all else in this life, I have failed. Until then, our uncompromising commitment to our marriage enables me to more fully serve my Air Force comrades.