Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Patriotism is still alive!

9/21/16 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Lt. Col. Kirsten Palmer

Kirsten M. Palmer has been a busy woman since she graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 1991. Thanks to her career choice in the USAF she has become a highly educated officer, leader and world traveler. Her senior year at CGHS she served as student body president. That summer she served as a U.S. Senate Page for Sen. Bob Packwood in Washington D.C.

Kirsten’s first stop out of high school was to join the U.S. Air Force. She fearlessly stepped into four years of training and education at the Air Force Academy in Colorado. At that time only a small percent of the 4,000 cadets were women. Four years later, in 1995, she graduated as Second Lieutenant with a Bachelor of Science in Management. In 1999, she received an M.B.A. in business administration from Phoenix University.

My first interview with her was the summer of 2005 after she attained the rank of Major. Her proud parents Ron and Linda Palmer’s serene back yard was the setting for a glimpse into the life of this focused young woman. Her career had already sprouted wings and taken flight all over the world—including Germany where, as a Major, she served as an aircraft maintenance officer in a Medivac unit.

I remember thinking then that she was a poster child for military recruitment. The Air Force had already enabled her to travel to 16 different countries and she loved her job as executive officer to the Wing Commander, 437th Airlift Wing where she worked 12-hour days.

 “It’s hard work,” she said later, “but I enjoy the camaraderie of the people I work with. They all have a deep-seated love for our country and believe they are keeping this nation secure and protecting our freedoms with what they do every day.”

Kirsten is married to Lt. Col. Roger Lang. They live in Washington D.C. with their five year old daughter Addyson.  Her husband is a USAF pilot for Air Force Two. Along with Air Force One, it is stationed at Andrews AFB. Its mission is to transport people in the upper positions of leadership. i.e. the Vice President, Presidents of the Senate, Speaker of the House, etc.

Now a Lt. Col., Kirsten’s most recent assignment was to serve at the Pentagon as Chief of the Logistics Initiative Branch in the Aircraft Maintenance Division in Washington D.C. This position is too complicated for me to explain! Suffice it to say that she does it well. Her many awards and decorations include Air Force Meritorious Service Medals with two, four and five leaf clusters; Commendation and Outstanding Achievement Medals. The National Defense Service Medal; A Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and more.

This summer Kirsten began a new facet of her military life. She celebrated 21 years of Air Force service and went back to school. She was appointed by the Department of the Air Force to attend The Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy at Fort Lesley J McNair. When she completes this one-year intensive study she will receive a Master’s of Science degree in National Resource Strategy.

The Eisenhower Institute’s curriculum is designed to promote strategic thinkers and national security policy makers to lead strategic institutions. Kirsten also hopes to gain a better understanding of the factors leaders must take into account when they make decisions affecting our national security and how to determine what is best for our country so resources are not squandered. A tall task!

Looking back, I asked her if a military career had exceeded her expectations. The answer was a resounding, “Yes.” “When I left Cottage Grove in 1991 and headed to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs," she said, "I never imagined my life and career would turn out this well. My plan was to stay in the Air Force as long as I was having fun. Twenty-five years later I’m still having fun! The opportunities provided by joining the military are endless and the education benefits are incredible in exchange for serving my country.”

Kirsten, the 2016 patriot, is just as enthusiastic as the day in 2005 when she said to me, “Sometimes I think, ‘Wow! How did I get so lucky to be born an American?’”

This summer, 11 years later, I asked her what she would like people to know about her job. Her response was this: “Rather than what I do, I would like people to realize the incredible honor it is to serve our country. The opportunity of being part of something bigger than yourself, knowing you’re part of an organization that strives to make the world a better place, while preserving the everyday freedoms that some take for granted.

“The professionalism of the men and women I have come across over the last 25 years makes me proud to be an American. When I retire from the Air Force (whenever that may be), I know the defense of our nation is in good hands with the young men and women who are now moving up the ranks.”

Kirsten also enjoys the camaraderie of the people she works with and their deep-seated love for our country. “They believe they are keeping this nation secure and protecting our freedoms with what they do every day.”

 Readers, in closing, I would like to add this: In an era when multi-millionaire football players are questioning their patriotism and refusing to salute our flag…It is a pleasure to bring you an update on someone who has chosen patriotism as a way of life. God has blessed America with her and all those who serve this country!

Thanks to all who serve and congratulations Kirsten!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.