Patriotism beyond retirement

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brigitte N. Brantley
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
The way Jerry Childs slowly walks toward the flagpole with an American flag folded in his arms shows exactly what kind of man he is- one who loves the Air Force, the flag and everything they stand for.

The Alabama native spent nearly 26 years in uniform working on aircraft armaments before hanging up his BDUs in 2006. The self-professed patriot takes pride in sharing his customs and courtesies knowledge with today's Airmen.

"If there's a flagpole and it's a beautiful day, there needs to be a flag flying on it," said the retired master sergeant, who is now the 23rd Logistics Readiness Squadron unit training manager. "I take to heart what each part of it represents. It's not so much the cloth, but what it symbolizes."

At the end of each day when Childs lowers the flag, he grabs the first person he sees to help him fold it. Childs said he does this so he can discuss customs and courtesies with them.
"I hate to think of myself as 'the older guy,' but I like sharing what I know with this generation of Airmen because there are a lot of customs you don't see daily," he said.

Some of Childs' knowledge comes from his stints as a professional military education instructor throughout during his career. He taught at field training detachments before retiring as the commandant of the Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham Airman Leadership School at Moody.

"One of the things I am most proud of from my entire Air Force career was getting our school named after him," said Childs, who added he met the pararescueman before he deployed to Afghanistan and died in combat March 4, 2002.

His efforts to get the school named after the PJ sum up the words on his Patriot Guard Riders vest: "The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten."

"It's just kind of how I roll," said Childs, who has ridden with the group about eight times since he joined earlier this year. "There are definitely more rides to come. The Patriot Guard is a nonviolent way we can go to funerals, memorials, etc., and stand for the people who stood for us. We can't forget those who died."

Something else he doesn't forget is what the Air Force means to him.

"The Air Force has been nothing but awesome to me," said Childs, who was the first in his family to join the military or get a college education. "It seemed great to me that a young person could come in and have an idea of their career path.

"I joined for all the good reasons people do: to escape 'Small Town, USA,' and to serve my country. My plan was '20 and out,' but when that point came, I didn't feel like I was done."
When the point did come in 2006, he retired on a Friday and began work as a military personnel section customer service representative on a Monday. A year later, his last day at that job was a Friday. The next Monday, he began his current job and has been there ever since.

"His patriotism and dedication to duty are second to none and I trust him implicitly with the educational welfare of our Airmen," said Lt. Col. Joseph Rodriguez, 23rd LRS commander. "He is a fine representative of our retired Air Force family. As a retired master sergeant and a former ALS superintendent, he is a perfect fit to be a training manager as he has a vested interest in seeing his fellow Flying Tigers succeed."

Childs said he wants Airmen to know their career is in their own hands.

"It's cliché but true: you will get out of the Air Force what you put into it," said Childs. "Be willing to give, and you will get back."