01/27/06 — General says airmen proud to serve nation

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General says airmen proud to serve nation

By Turner Walston
Published in News on January 27, 2006 2:03 PM

Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, commander of the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command, wants Wayne County residents to know that members of the U.S. Air Force are proud to serve and ready to continue the fight against terror.

McNabb, a four-star general, spoke to members of the Seymour Johnson Base Community Council and guests Thursday at the Goldsboro Country Club.

McNabb emphasized to those gathered the importance of the war on terrorism, and emphasized his -- and his airmen's -- commitment to continuing the fight.

He spoke of his own emotions on morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers crashed a passenger airliner into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

"I was in the Pentagon on 9/11. I remember pouring out of that building, and I will tell you, I was angry," he said. "And I wasn't as angry because they attacked the Pentagon. I was more angry because they took those Twin Towers, and they killed innocent people. They killed people that I, like all the folks in uniform, had sworn to protect."

He said those whom the U.S. is fighting against in the Middle East would have killed more if they could have that day.

"If they could have killed 30,000, they would have killed 30,000," he said. "If they could have killed three million, they would have killed three million."

And the fight to stop them is not over -- a responsibility that military personnel take very seriously, McNabb said.

"It really is good over evil," he said.

McNabb said every time he encounters young airmen ready to deploy, they have "a brightness in their eyes."

"They know they are (risking) their lives to protect others," he said.

He compared the work of today's servicemen and women to World War II's Greatest Generation.

"I tell them 'this is our time,'" he said. "They really are the next Greatest Generation."

McNabb said he recently attended a memorial service of the Armed Forces Escape and Evasion Society, a group of World War II airmen who were shot down over Europe and then avoided or escaped capture with the help of European citizens.

The emotion of the attendees, both the soldiers and the townspeople aware of the risks and sacrifices of their heroes, pointed out to McNabb the importance of that effort long ago and today's battle over terrorism.

"They're protecting the tomorrows of others," he said.

That same determination is also in the faces of those who are in military hospitals today after having been injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

He said he was inspired by the servicemen and women's dedication to their units and their cause as well as their compassion for the people they were protecting.

"They might have lost an arm or a leg," he said. "They don't tell you about the bomb that put them there."

They told him instead, McNabb said, about the kindness of the people they met in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lives they touched there.

"They put their lives before others, that others might live," McNabb said of the airmen.

And it is the thankfulness of their home nation and those they are protecting overseas that helps keep the airmen going, McNabb said.

McNabb recounted a story told to him by an airman who, with a partner, was performing an escort for a fallen soldier on a passenger airliner. Prior to takeoff, a flight attendant asked that the other passengers allow the two airmen to exit the plane first. Sitting in the back row of the aircraft, the airman doubted the other passengers would comply.

To the airman's surprise, when the plane docked at the gate, no one left their seats, McNabb said. As he walked down the aisle of the quiet plane, a gentleman stopped the airman and said, "God bless you both."

"We, sir, are most honored that you trust us to defend your country," the airman said later.

McNabb said members of the armed forces are aware of the risks involved in fighting the war, and the chance that they might not return.

"We sacrifice that possibility because you depend on us," he said.

He also thanked the community for its continued support of the base and its personnel.

"A community like you all takes care of our folks at Seymour," he said. "It's really all that we need."