'The cause is the reward'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Meiko Schill
  • 932nd Airlift Wing
The best advice I have ever heard about serving our nation, was told to me quite recently, "The cause is the reward." I learned that lesson in a wonderful way this year on the Fourth of July.

I contemplated a transfer to an Air Force Reserve unit closer to my home, at the beginning of this year; I researched local units and discovered the 932nd Airlift Wing. As a public affairs specialist, I was impressed with the quality of work the wing published so I began following them on Facebook. Shortly after, I saw a status update about the wing's participation in the upcoming St. Louis 136th annual Veiled Prophet Parade held on the Fourth of July. It was in that moment that a persistent notion formed in my mind motivating me, " I would love to transfer in time to participate in the parade with the 932nd this year."

A couple months later I met with the leadership of the "Gateway Wing" and submitted my transfer package. I attended the Newcomer's Orientation in June and a few short weeks later it was time for the parade. As a transplant to St. Louis who had never been to a parade held downtown, or participated in such a large event, I was excited on many levels.
For the 932nd Public Affairs Shop the day had a tinge of sadness, as it marked our non-commissioned officer in charge, Tech Sgt. Daniel Oliver's last parade with us. During the short time I had worked with him, I was awed by his knowledge of the career field and his respect for fellow service members, and he quickly became one of my most notable mentors.
The 932nd PA Shop's Officer Maj. Stan Paregien brought his friend Ralph Axe, a Vietnam veteran and three time Purple Heart recipient to march with us. Ralph shared some of his stories about his time in service and expressed heartfelt wishes to not only the 932nd Airlift Wing but to all of the men and women currently serving in the armed forces.

We were fortunate the weather in St. Louis was pleasant and bright, much like the tone of those who were part of the parade.

While we might not have been the most colorful of the many flashy components of the affair, our energy was cheerful and authentic. Members of the 932nd joked and laughed with one another, all obviously in great spirits while I interviewed them before the procession began.

I took photos and video of the crowds of spectators as they cheered on our detail of service members who carried the U.S. flag. I was moved by the patriotism and community support I witnessed. Applause was peppered with shouts of gratitude as our Air Force Reservists waved to onlookers, friends and family while they marched proudly as I darted around them with a camera.

I have never felt a sense of community connection to any specific city or state, because of my upbringing and travels during my military career. I have never called myself a Californian and rarely mention my hometown when meeting people. I was born overseas on a military installation, so for much of my life I focused on being a patriotic American and my service to my country. But I think on that day, I truly became a citizen of the "Gateway to the West" and learned what it means to be a citizen airman.
Being a part of the 136th annual VP Parade this year was a great way to begin my career with the 932nd PA Shop and tenure as a St. Louisan. I hope in the future I continue to see each event and every story I am assigned as a wonderful reward, as well as an opportunity to serve the community that I belong to.