VOICES: I have much to be thankful for because of the Air Force

The United States Air Force was founded on Sept. 18, 1947. This year we celebrate its 75th anniversary.

I joined the Air Force in 1981 after completing two years of community college. It wasn’t planned. My mother lovingly kicked me out of the house.

I was moving from New York to Florida and stopped in Cincinnati to visit my brother. He suggested I go back to college, something I didn’t want to do. He asked if I ever thought of going into the Air Force — I hadn’t. The next day I was at the recruiter’s office. I raised my right hand and swore an oath to this country. I enlisted in the Air Force and later became an Air Force officer. Joining the Air Force was one of the best decisions I ever made.

My first assignment was at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Wright-Patt has a rich history, tracing its military origins to World War I. Its aviation history began before then with the Wright Brothers at Huffman Prairie in 1904. Today, there are more than 8,100 acres and close to 30,000 employees at the base. A recent study shows the base has a $15 billion dollar-a-year economic impact.

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I served at Wright-Patt twice in my career. After being stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, Misawa, Japan and Aviano, Italy, I returned back to Wright-Patt in 1997. I retired in 1999 as a major and medical service corps officer. I had a great military career and decided to stay in Dayton because of my love for the city.

If it wasn’t for the Air Force, I would not be where I am today. Through the support of the Air Force, I went back to college and got a bachelor’s and master’s degree. I met my wife at Sinclair Community College while in the Air Force. She’s from the Dayton area. We raised our family here. I have much to be thankful for because of the Air Force.

My career in the Air Force prepared me for my position at the Dayton VA. I started working at the Dayton VA in 2003 in surgical services. I left the VA for a short time, then returned in 2007. I worked in several different roles including as a program manager and a health system specialist. In 2013, I became the associate director. I took the director’s job at the Chillicothe VA and then the Cincinnati VA before returning to the Dayton VA as the director in February 2020. I oversee more than 2,300 employees at the Dayton VA, where we provide health care to nearly 40,000 Veterans on average each year.

The Air Force, Wright-Patt and the Dayton VA are important to me and the entire Miami Valley. The Air Force is due in part to the “Birthplace of Aviation” and the Wright Brothers’ discovery of flight. It is significant that one of the largest military installations in the country is in Dayton and is partly named after the Wright Brothers.

Like me, many airmen retire from Wright-Patt and decide to stay in the area. Many of those Veterans who remain here can get their health care at the Dayton VA, like I do, or at our VA clinic out at Wright-Patt. The Dayton VA has been here for 155 years. Our mission then and today, in President Abraham Lincoln’s words is, “to care for him (or her) who shall have borne the battle. "

I am fortunate each day to go to work at the Dayton VA and provide care to our nation’s heroes. I am blessed to have been stationed at Wright-Patt and honored to have served in the U.S. Air Force. Happy 75th Anniversary.

Mark Murdock has been the director at the Dayton VA Medical Center since February 2020 . Originally from New York, he has called Dayton home for more than 20 years.

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