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VETERANS DAY TAB - In May 1983, I was appointed to the United States Air Force Academy. Four years later, I was on the field at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., where President Reagan had given the graduation address and we had received o

The four years were challenging. The academics were rigorous and diverse, and military and athletic activities occupied much of my free time.

I was a member of the Catholic Choir and Cadet Chorale, both of which went on trips in the U.S. and once to the United Kingdom. The Air Force Academy isn't all peaches and cream. The fourth class system is based on the concept that to be a good leader, one must first learn to be a good follower. So we were treated as peons for 10 months, culminating in a 16-mile march after which we were "recognized" as upperclassmen.

As my classmate liked to say, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." I participated in the Air Force Academy's free-fall parachuting program the summer after my freshman year, made five jumps and earned my parachutist's wings.

As part of an elective class at the academy, we took a Boeing 737 outfitted with navigator training consoles, to Europe. Part of that trip we were allowed to visit East Germany but had to wear our uniforms or we could have been treated as spies.

I graduated with a BS in civil engineering. While on leave I met my future wife, Karen. Then I was off to navigator training and electronic warfare officer training in Sacramento, Calif. My assignment after navigator training was to be a B-52 electronic warfare officer at Minot AFB, N.D. After graduation from navigator/electronic warfare officer training in 1988, Karen and I were married. We went to Castle AFB near Merced, Calif., where I had initial B-52 training for a few months. We spent the next three and a half years at Minot.

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I was part of a handful of B-52s from Minot that were on a routine training deployment to Guam in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. We were the closest ones able to drop some serious iron.. After that, we returned to Minot.

I got out of the Air Force in 1992, having seen my comrades in arms liberate Grenada, chase Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and having outlasted the Soviet Union in the Cold War. I was part of the last B-52 aircrews sitting alert, until the president ordered a "stand down" following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Returning to civilian life, I made use of my civil engineering degree. I worked at McGhie &; Betts consulting engineers in Rochester for six years and currently work for the city of Rochester. I previously served on the Quincy Township Board of Supervisors, and currently serve on the school board in St. Charles.

Karen and I have five children. Our oldest child, Justin, was born at Minot AFB. Our other four children, Kayla, Laura, Michelle, and Jenny were born in Rochester.

On a family vacation to Colorado in 2003 we stopped by the Air Force Academy. After 9-11, the base is no longer wide open to visitors, but since I'm a graduate we were able to go on base. The following year we were able to visit Minot so Justin could see where he was born.

Given all the current turmoil in the world and our military personnel deployed overseas, and knowing what I do today, if I were 18 and was given the opportunity to go to the Air Force Academy, would I do it again? Yeah, I'd go for it.

 ; David F. Kramer, former captain, United States Air Force.

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