I received an email from a retired USAF brigadier general recently. The man was a new lieutenant when he was assigned to my squadron to fly combat in F105s during the Vietnam Conflict in 1968. I wish to share it with you.
”Eglin Join Base Command, located near Fort Walton, Fla. is presently the largest military complex in the world, encompassing a large contingent of Air Force units, Naval warfare units, 7th Army Special Forces and 6th Army Rangers.
”My home is exactly five miles outside of the main gate of Eglin AFB.
”Most folks in the USA don’t live in a military town with lots of guys in uniform walking the streets, with jets flying overhead daily. They go on with their lives unaware of what a military town is all about. And that’s OK… but I want to share with you what it’s like to live in a military town.
”We see guys in uniform all the time; we have state of the art, high performance aircrafts in the air nearby all day long; we hear ”the sound of freedom” when an F-22 or F-35 streaks over the house; and we read in the local paper – sometimes daily, but at least weekly – of the loss of one of our own in combat in the Middle East.
”And that is what brings me to the reason for this email.
”Staff Sergeant Mark De Alencar was 37 years old, had a family and was a Green Beret with the 7th Army Special Forces stations here in the Fort Walton area.
He was killed on April 8, 2018 while fighting the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. In January of this year, he was deployed for the second time to Afghanistan.
He promised his adopted daughter, Octavia, that he would be home for her high school graduation.
”He didn’t make it.
”But she went to graduation anyway, and in the audience were 80 US 7th Armed Special Forces soldiers from her dad’s unit in full Parade Dress uniform. Additionally, they brought their families to be with them.
”And as Octavia ascended to the steps of the stage to receive her diploma, they all silently stood up.
”And when she was presented her diploma, they all cheered, clapped, whistled… and yes, cried.
”Everyone in attendance then stood up and cried and cheered. Octavia had graduated, and yes, she had lost her dad, but she had 80 other dads to stand there with her and take his place.
”I just wanted to remind you of what it’s like to live in a military town. This is the real America we all love… and I’m proud to be part of it. May God bless our men in uniforms and their families who give so much.”
This email shows how the military respects the memory of its own. While our city council has had many opportunities to show respect for our true hero, Seam Duane Hodges, they have not done so in the manner that respects his heroism and memory.