09/09/08 — A hero's farewell: Col. Steve Kwast was a part of this community, too

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A hero's farewell: Col. Steve Kwast was a part of this community, too

There is a reason the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base community will be so sorry to see Col. Steve Kwast go -- even though they will be proud of where is going.

The mark of a true leader is a man who knows that he is just a cog in a wheel -- the person charged with inspiring those whose courage and hard work actually get the job done. He knows he is the one who has to make the decisions that will affect the lives of those who work with him, and he never forgets that responsibility.

Col. Kwast is that kind of leader.

This is a man who knows the importance of the mission he directs and appreciates the honor of being involved in a career that lets him protect and serve the country he loves. He understands it is not an easy life -- not on the airman or the family who serves along with him or her.

There could be no better person in charge of keeping this country safe.

Col. Kwast has now officially turned over the reins of the 4th Fighter Wing to Col. Mark Kelly and will move to his new job at Langley Air Force Base.

And while this community welcomes Col. Kelly with the same open arms that it did his predecessor, today is the day to say thank you to a man who has not only taken care of his country, but has been a big part of this community as well.

Col. Kwast modeled service for his airmen -- teaching them to become good and responsible citizens who serve not only on the battlefield, but in their neighborhoods as well.

There are hundreds of Wayne County lives that have been touched by the work of Air Force volunteers -- as inspired by their commander.

And as much as Wayne County took the Kwasts into its hearts, the colonel's family also welcomed all of us.

They will all be missed.

Now it is time for a new leader, a new vision and a new commander. Such is the life of a military family -- and that of the community that acts as their surrogate hometown, if only for a couple of years.

But Col. Kwast should leave knowing that he accomplished his mission here. He made a stronger 4th Fighter Wing, a better base and left on an impression of leadership, service and commitment in the minds of thousands of airmen and Wayne County residents.

He did his country, his family and his fellow airmen proud.

His career will continue to take flight -- and we will hear his name again.

But even though he will continue to serve near and far, he and his family -- Joni, Keegan and Lilly -- should know they will always have a "home" in North Carolina.

Published in Editorials on September 9, 2008 11:13 AM