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December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Community

Sergeants at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Christmas is upon us, and the holidays are a wonderful time to honor the men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States. This is an especially important time to remember those who are, or soon will be, fighting overseas.
Many families are filled with extra joy this holiday season, because their loved ones are home for Christmas. Others are preparing care packages for family members spending the holidays on the other side of the world, in service to their country.
In a series of interviews with Black Image, several members of the military opened up about Christmas at wartime and what it means to spend the holiday season with loved ones.

Maj. Rob Fenrick

“I will be home in Las Vegas for the Christmas holiday, spending it with my family,” said Staff Sgt. Reggie Pitts, a 24-year-old serving in the Air Force. “It is going to be wonderful to be with my entire family before I leave for Afghanistan. I signed up for the Air Force to do what is necessary to carry out the cause to defend our nation. I am a civil engineer and an entomologist. I study insects and other dangerous animals — such as scorpions, flies and snakes — in Afghanistan that can carry deadly diseases and put our troops in harm’s way.”

Military electrician Marquis Tinsley and Staff Sgt.

Retired Airman Ron Stanley, who now works as an American Airlines pilot, noted the unique sense of sacrifice required of military families. “When I was in the Air Force, most of the time I was not home for the holidays — and that is the sort of thing you understand and know,” he said. “When you are in the military you make that commitment to serve. Now that I am retired, I will spend this holiday with my family here in Las Vegas.”
Those sacrifices might cause some to wonder: How do so many young people build up the courage and conviction to put protecting the United States above all other concerns?
Nineteen-year-old Marquis Tinsley admitted that his mother influenced his choice to join the Air Force. “I initially decided to sign up for the United States Army, and my mother was against that,” he said. “So, I enrolled in the Air Force and I am an electrical engineer. I will be leaving for the first time to Afghanistan next year, and I have to admit I am a little shaky about it. But I will go.”

Airman Jackson and First Sgt. Kamara

First Lt. Mitchelle Paulk, 24, is focused on his role in the Air Force: “In January or February of next year I will be leaving to go to Afghanistan and I am quite happy about it. I have wanted to be in the Air Force since I was in the sixth grade, and now I am an air battle manager and we give a real time picture for ground commanders … of any enemy ‘hostiles’ moving toward our troops. We can warn them from the sky and tell them to take a defensive position.”
Given the events of the past decade, it may surprise some to learn that U.S. military commitments are not restricted to the Middle East. Maj. Rob Fenrick, of the California Air National Guard, has been stationed in East Africa. “Yes, I went to Djibouti, Africa — that is next to Somalia,” he said. “We, the United States, have assets there and we have a strong presence.”
In recent history, there have been some high-profile examples of racial tension in a military context. Upon refusing a Vietnam draft order handed down near the apex of the civil rights movement, boxing legend Muhammad Ali famously asked why he should fight an overseas enemy when his own people were still fighting for their rights at home.
Those now serving were candid when asked about the current state of race relations in the military.
“Over the course of time, racism has taken on a new image. Now the face of racism is not blatant — it is subliminal and sometimes under the table,” said Pitts. “It is more intellectual. In most cases it has been weeded out, but on occasion if you are aware of someone demeaning your intelligence because of your race, it must be acknowledged and challenged. Overall, the military is not about what you are — it’s about what you are capable of doing. This crosses all color lines.”

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