Friday, January 21, 2011

EDITORIAL >Welcome home, LRAFB airmen

As several hundred airmen from Little Rock Air Force Base flew into combat a couple of weeks ago, Col. Mike Minihan, commander of the 19th Airlift Wing, was telling us that it’s never easy sending people into war. He’s been there several times, but when airmen are sent to Afghanistan and Iraq, it means others get to come home.

“The fun part is that in two weeks they’ll be relieving the other guys,” Minihan said after he’d seen a planeload of airmen leave the base. “I love it when they come home.”

On Thursday, more than 200 airmen came home into the arms of their loved ones. They landed in the snow, a moment that was captured by Leader photographer David Scolli on p. 1A of today’s paper.

It was a great homecoming, but aren’t they all? You look around the air base or if you see a group of airmen at a restaurant, chances are they’ve been to Afghanistan.

Minihan, who has been stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq several times, said, “We haven’t lost one plane.

The crews are highly skilled and professional.”

Although the mission is dangerous — planes get shot at in the air, and it’s never a picnic on the ground — it has continued without letup for almost a decade. As Minihan reminded us, “This wing has not had a break since 9/11.”

These are the heroes who do their jobs, often under difficult conditions, but they don’t complain and never tire of serving their nation. More are sent overseas almost every month, but they do not hesitate and often volunteer for the most dangerous duty.

The next time you stand next to an airman in a store or a parking lot, don’t forget to say, “Thank you.” And “Glad you’re back.”