Saturday, May 15, 2010

Armed Forces Day - 61st Anniversary

This moving photograph shows Chief Master Sgt. John Gebhardt, superintendent of the 22nd Wing Medical Group at McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, holding an injured Iraqi girl.

You may have seen this photo before. It has been widely circulated. I chose to show it again today in honor of Armed Forces Day.

The picture was taken in October 2006, while Chief John Gebhardt was deployed at Balad Air Base in Iraq. According to the Air Force Print News, the infant girl held in his arms “received extensive gunshot injuries to her head when insurgents attacked her family killing both of her parents and her siblings.”
The nurses said John is the only one who seems to calm her down, so he spent the last four nights holding her while they both slept in that chair.

John is now back home in Wichita, Kansas, with his wife and two children.
An Air Force Link article about the fame he gained as the subject of this photograph reported that Chief
Gebhardt said “I got as much enjoyment out of it as the baby did, I reflected on my own family and life and thought about how lucky I have been.”

While deployed to Iraq, the chief tried to help out any way he could. He figured holding a baby, that needed comforting would free up one more set of arms that could be providing care to more critical patients. “I pray for the best for the Iraqi children,” he said. “I can’t tell the difference between their kids and our kids. The Iraqi parents have the same care and compassion for their children as any American.”


I have family and friends who are serving or have retired from the Armed Forces. All of them, without exception, are decent human beings. To me this photo captures the average person who is serving their country.


On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days.

In an excerpt from the Presidential Proclamation of Feb. 27, 1950, Mr. Truman had stated:
The theme of the first Armed Forces Day was “Teamed for Defense.” It was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job is performed and the role of the military in civilian life and it was a day to honor and acknowledge the people of the Armed Forces of the United States.

According to a New York Times article published on May 17, 1952: “This is the day on which we have the welcome opportunity to pay special tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces ... to all the individuals who are in the service of their country all over the world. Armed Forces Day won’t be a matter of parades and receptions for a good many of them. They will all be in line of duty and some of them may give their lives in that duty.

Armed Forces Day is celebrated annually on the third Saturday of May.

To date 5,464 US Military personnel have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan
and thousands have been wounded.

I continue to dream of a day when the military personnel will only be assigned as disaster relief workers and to keep the peace without killing. Much like the National Guard and the United Nations Peace keepers.

Until that time please remember them and their families on this official day of recognition of the United States Armed Forces


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