News: Honor and tradition: A reflection of Veterans Day
Story by Master Sgt. Beth Holliker
SWANTON, Ohio - For Staff Sgt. Tony Unum, a third generation military member, Veterans Day is a time to honor and reflect upon all veterans, past, present and future, quietly and respectfully.
Unum, a financial management systems technician at the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, enlisted in the Air Force Reserves in 1989 spending five years as a heating, ventilation and air conditioning journeyman with the 906th Civil Engineering Squadron at Wright-Patterson AFB. In 1994 he transitioned to the Air National Guard joining the 200th Red Horse Squadron as a knowledge operations craftsman before moving to the 180th Fighter Wing in 2001.
Originally not planning to pursue a military career, Staff Sgt. Unum thought about his family’s long history of serving and felt that he needed to carry on that tradition. Unum’s grandfather served in WWI, his uncle in WWII and his father, the Korean War. “There is a sense of pride that comes along with wearing the uniform,” said Unum. “I now understand the pride they felt.”
A combat veteran himself, Unum deployed to Bitburg, Germany with the 906th CES in the spring of 1993. “We had a layover at Dover AFB, DE and while waiting for our plane I noticed literature about the country of Somalia, including language translation dictionaries,” Unum explains. “I didn’t think much of it at the time, but remember telling my roommates that it would suck to be there.”
Later that same year, Staff Sgt. Unum found himself at Dover AFB looking at the same information about Somalia again waiting on plane to take him to Cairo West Air Base, Egypt, where he was forward deployed to Mogadishu, Somalia.
“We all remember the movie 'Black Hawk Down,'” said Unum. “Eight weeks after the major firefight that inspired that movie, I was standing at that very intersection where the firefight took place.”
At that moment he fully understood that pride and the sacrifice that comes along with wearing the uniform.
Unum completed his tour in March 1994 with the proud accomplishment of fulfilling his duty to this country.
“For the Air National Guard, our entire operations tempo has changed,” said Unum. “We have gone from being a reserve defensive force to taking an active role in the defense of freedom and maintaining our way of life.”
Prior to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, activation of the guard and reserve occurred, but was not nearly as common as it has been post 9/11. Though there are many benefits for those who choose to wear the uniform, Unum is a firm believer for those who volunteer to wear the uniforms of our armed forces that, “It shouldn’t be just about the benefits, but what you can offer to your country in return.”
Unum, who plans to continue his career and join the ranks of the senior noncommissioned officer ranks says, “Volunteering to take part in defending our freedoms and continuing to demonstrate the pride of wearing the uniform is the perfect way to honor and reflect upon all veterans, past, present and future who have and will continue the honor and tradition of defending our freedoms.”