Some things are just meant to be.....
Kevin is at his new base this week and next . . . doing his reserve duty. Actually, he's back at the base where he started out his service, Barksdale AFB . . . working on B-52s once again. He discovered that, after being gone almost 4 years, there are still some people he knows at the base. One of his favorite old supervisors is retiring today, and one of the guys he sponsored in '99 is now helping him get settled. He never expected to be back in Shreveport, but he seems to be happy with his new job and co-workers . . . I haven't seen him happy about his job since he left Alaska last summer. What's really interesting is, this is not the path he originally chose, but it is the path he ended up on . . . and it has turned out to be a good path.
The first thing I should explain is that Kevin is in the Air Force Reserve now, but he works with and is part of an active-duty maintenance unit. I know, how does a reservist end up being assigned to an active-duty group? Well, it's like this . . . Kevin is IMA (Individual Mobilization Augmentee . . . I think), which is a unique position reserved for former active-duty personnel who know their stuff and don't need a lot of supervision. He has to work 24 days a year, as well as a 2-week summer term, and can pretty much choose when he wants to work . . . all at one time or one week at a time. No one-weekend-a-month . . . no weekends period. While he was inprocessing, most of the people he had to check in with didn't understand where to put him because of this. There aren't many IMA positions, apparently, and when he told them he was in the Reserve, they wanted to process him into the Reserve unit on base, but that's not where he belongs. He belongs to an active-duty unit. So he had to tell them who he was replacing and tell them to set him up like that other guy. They'd say . . . "Oh, okaaaay," but still seemed confused by the whole thing. He found it pretty amusing.
When he got a chance, he stopped by to visit the 11th Bomb Squadron . . . his old stomping grounds. He got to see a few old friends there. He called me later to tell me how laid back Barksdale was compared to his last base. He commented that there was a big difference between bases with fighters and bases with "heavies," a difference in attitudes and the way the bases are run." Needless to say, he prefers the "heavies" base.
When he got some spare time, he went to the 8th Air Force Museum and souvenir shop. He wanted some new stickers for his truck, of course. We especially like the one with a B-52 as the inside part of a peace sign that says "Peace the old-fashioned way." I know, crude, but what can I say . . . . . :)
While at the museum, he learned about a program that had been started to help raise funds for the museum and to honor service members. The outdoor part of the museum has planes on display with plaques identifying them and telling when and where they were in service. A paved walkway winds through the planes. The museum is outlining the walkway with bricks to dress it up a bit. But what's really neat is you can order a brick for $50 and request that the name, squadron, dates of service, etc. of a service member be engraved on it. You can even request a particular location for the brick to be placed along the walkway. Kevin's first thought was of Uncle Bruce, whom I wrote about in my Memorial Day post. He was a B-17 pilot, and was also in the 8th Air Force. Kevin wanted to get some more information about what squadron he was in and such so he could buy a brick for the walkway and request that it be placed in front of the B-17. How cool is that!!!?????!!!!!!
We had been wondering what we could do to honor my uncle, and this is absolutely perfect. After the brick is engraved, a picture will be taken of it and it'll be made into a postcard. Then it will be sent wherever he wants it to go. Kevin wants to have it sent to my aunt.
If Kevin had been happy at his last base in New Mexico, he never would have left active duty; if he hadn't gotten out when he did, he wouldn't have been here for my uncle's memorial service where he met and talked to a bunch of old vets (quite a treat for him); if he had been assigned to Tinker AFB in Oklahoma for reserve duty, like originally planned, he never would have known anything about the 8th Air Force Museum's fundraiser. All these disappointments were heartbreaking for Kevin when they happened, he felt betrayed by the service he had dedicated nine years to, but they also led him to where he is now . . . and the possibilities are endless. Like I said . . . some things are just meant to be.