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The Waltermire apple and the Waltermire tree

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brigette Waltermire
  • 137th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Dedication. It's an important aspect of everyday life. A lot of personal and professional successes wouldn't be possible without it, and there is a very specific part of the American population whose everyday lives are ruled by this principle. This is the less-than-one-percent of people serving America's military. Veteran's Day is dedicated to all who are serving or have served.  I am privileged to be one of the many who are honored on this day, but it has had personal meaning for me beyond my enlistment.

I was the second Waltermire to join the U.S. Air Force, and one of many Waltermires to serve in the Armed Forces. My father's paternal side of the family's military legacy dates back to the Civil War, during which my great-great-great grandfather carried a sword that is now sitting in my grandpa's gun safe. My great uncle, Lt. James Waltermire, was a Marine doctor in Vietnam, and my dad's brother, Lt. Cmdr. Scott Waltermire, was a propulsion and weapons officer, before transferring as an officer for battalion communications and weapons, after graduating from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. My dad's maternal side of the family also has ties to the 45th Infantry Brigade - which used to be the Infantry Division - and the Navy.  The Air Force branch of our legacy started with my father, Lt. Col. James "JB" Waltermire, who retired from his military career recently after almost 30 years. 

Many became well acquainted with him during his time as commander of the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron at Will Rogers Air National Guard Base and know he has a rather polarizing personality. You either love him or you hate him. Several times people would see my name tape and ask with a knowing look, "Do you have a relative on base?" I tend to wear a deer-in-the-headlights expression as I consider whether I should admit to it or quietly find the nearest exit. I have finally come to the realization that I cannot avoid the inevitable. Of course, that has become a lot easier due to the fact that my father's retired status means his candor no longer directly affects me, but he has cast a long shadow during his career. He definitely made a point of being up-front and honest, regardless of how it landed.

My father's service started during his time at the Air Force Academy and continued with his first assignment as a T-38 pilot and then an F-15 fighter pilot in 1995, but he never saw combat. He was the Inspector General at Tulsa and worked at the Pentagon, but he didn't find a point where he felt his service was complete, until 2009 when he joined the 146th Air Support Operations Squadron. When he took command in 2013, he effectively updated his squadron to a unit of warriors; he was fully invested in his job. In the space of two years, he effectively changed the way the ASOS did business on a semi-national scale and created a tradition of excellence. Other squadrons saw what the Oklahoma ASOS was doing and used that as a model.

Tradition means a lot to my family. Anyone who is at all familiar with Oklahoma wrestling will understand that the Perry high school slogan "The Tradition Lives On" is taken very seriously by its denizens. My grandfather wrestled in Perry, lettered in wrestling at OU, then taught at Perry high school and coached, you guessed it, wrestling. His two boys, my dad and uncle, grew up wrestling. When my dad went to the academy, he wrestled. When my brother started sports in grade school, he wrestled. And, when I went to my brother's practice and saw how cool pinning somebody was, I wrestled. 

Wrestling was not a very long-lived career for me. While the weight restrictions weren't really an issue with my young metabolism, and the strength training wasn't any harder than my experience in gymnastics, I only lasted the season. I went to one tournament in third grade, pinned a kid, made another cry and that's all she wrote. I might have stayed with it longer if not for one reason: my dad was the assistant coach. Between his high standards and demanding work ethic and my stubbornness, it just wasn't going to work.

The words oil and vinegar may have been bandied about in the past to describe our father/daughter relationship. We have been known to knock heads, and I have come to understand, through the remarks of others, that it could be related to the fact that I am almost exactly like him. Between me and my brother, I'm the one who took up horseback riding and would wander the farm with Dad. When he would leave at zero dark thirty to hunt, I would tag along. Once old enough, I went out and got a lifetime hunting license, so I could go hunt with my dad and grandpa. 

I'm proud of my dad and the career he has had in the Air Force. Growing up, I was constantly around his drive to be productive, and I know that my persistence, principles and pigheadedness (in a good way - sometimes) are a reflection of my father. And while I am my father's daughter, I like to think I still have an individual personality. I will follow in his footsteps through the military and carry on the Waltermire legacy of service with pride; but, it will not define me or my future. There's a whole other side of familial influence on my development. As one of my public affairs officers so flatteringly put it: "I knew you and your dad, and I could definitely see the similarity ... but you really have to meet your mom for your personality to make sense."