Twenty-eight days to clarity in Black History Month

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton
  • United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron
I found out recently that I'm the first U.S. Air Force Thunderbird who is also the daughter of a former Thunderbird. I also happen to be African-American. So, technically, I'm black and I've made history.

I think that's interesting, sure. But important enough to be story-worthy during Black History Month? Well, my supervisor thought so, and I've developed a habit of agreeing with my supervisor.

Most of the time, when February rolls around, I dedicate my thoughts to the countless people who made the drastic, significant differences -- the ones who made sacrifices that changed the outcome of my reality. So, naturally, when I thought about writing a commentary about how my life fits into that big, historical picture, I drew a blank.

My job as a public affairs specialist is to write about the things that are important, to share Air Force news and write features stories about the men and women who dedicate their lives to our service. But history, being an account of all things past, places each person in a position that implies what we're doing now plays an infinite role in things to come -- a reaction to every action, so to speak. And, honestly, this "history" I'm making right now is all because of what my father did more than 20 years ago.

My dad joined the Thunderbirds in 1987 and was assigned to the commander's support staff. In his second year on the team, I was born. Growing up, I heard stories about his time on the team and everything he was able to do. Not knowing any better, my family would gush about how my father was a pilot -- a common misconception of any Thunderbird that still exists today -- and how amazing that experience must have been. At no point do I think my father ever anticipated his only little girl following him not only into the Air Force, but also into the squadron he loved most.

Twenty-six years later, that's exactly what happened. It's a little surreal to be here, sitting in the same office my father did, right across from where he used to. Sometimes, it's even humbling to know that I'm tied into a strong history that's been ingrained into the Air Force for more than 60 years. Though it's not life-changing, and it may not change the face of history, it's significant. Because of Airmen like my father, I am able to serve as a member of one of the oldest and greatest Air Force organizations.

What I've learned, and what I've been thinking about since I got this story assignment, is that the Air Force, just like the rest of our country, has grown in terms of accepting cultural diversity. As Airmen today, our mentality switches from a focus on where we grew up, the color of our skin, or our gender, to what career field we represent. And even that breaks down into different subcultures. All that to say, yes, I am an African American woman serving my country, and I'm doing so in a pretty unique position. And though I appreciate the importance of February and acknowledge all the milestones that my own culture faced, I'm also just a writer.

Today, like every day, my job is to tell the Air Force story. And, personally, I'm glad I can write this story without mentioning racism or things that used to plague our country. My experience also includes the stories of my father, who served on this same team 26 years ago. He still speaks highly of his time in the Air Force and, because of that, I grew up wanting to be a part of something that much greater than myself.

It took me the entire month to piece it together, but here it is the last day of Black History Month, and I'm left feeling grateful. I'm grateful that I'm an Airman, a Thunderbird, and a public affairs specialist, who just happens to be an African American.

Tomorrow, it will be March, and I'll feel the same way.