This Saturday we celebrate the 50th anniversary of AFAD.
That's a remarkable achievement. From its very beginning, Air Force Appreciation Day has been something special. While the base has waxed and waned over the years, the support of this community for the men and women stationed there has never wavered.
From the people who take part in the parade, which in our pride we claim with considerable justification to be the state's largest, to the thousands of people who line the streets to watch it and visit the park afterward, each and every one of our citizens who turns out shows their support for the troops. And that support extends beyond the airbase to all the men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the United States' armed forces.
Since 9/11, it has been fashionable in this country to support the military. Our support has been there long before that and will continue long after all the troops come home.
This year's parade is especially poignant. It falls on the 9th anniversary of the attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States and comes as the Idaho National Guard prepares to deploy into the Mideast war zone, including many of the men and women from the local armory.
In the nine years since we were thrust into this Global War Against Terrorism, the men and women at Mountain Home AFB have been constantly deployed, sometimes as entire squadrons and, more often, in penny packets fleshing out needs in the war zones. They've driven trucks on the dangerous convoy routes, bandaged wounds, disarmed bombs, directed the air battle and provided security. The pilots of the Strike Eagles have provided pinpoint support for the ground units, even though at times they've been restrained by rules of engagement that -- and we're not kidding here -- have often required clearance from the military's lawyers before they could drop their bombs.
Some units, such as the base's security forces, have had personnel almost constantly deployed. It's been rare in the last nine years when all of those forces were home at the same time.
It's been a brutal, stressful operations tempo, which has taken its toll not only on those in uniform, but their families as well. Those families have had to stand tall and set aside their fear to continue their "normal" lives as a key spouse spends months at a time in harms way. As much as the troops deserve our praise for their bravery, each and every military family member should also be praised for their bravery. They are the silent heroes of our wars.
So turn out this weekend to help us salute both the troops and the family members who stand behind them. Say thank you every chance you get. It's one of the few rewards they will ever receive for all they do to keep our nation safe.
It's our duty and our honor to be able to do so.