From left, Maj. Gen. Garret Harencak, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, presents the American Spirit Award to Dan Clark Jan. 26, 2017 at the Air Force Recruiting Service Leadership Conference in San Antonio. At right is Chief Master Sgt. Brian LaBounty, AFRS command chief. Since 1980, the AFRS award has been presented to civilians who have made a significant impact on Airmen and the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Joel Martinez)

I’ve had many remarkable experiences with military men and women during my time as a motivational speaker, but words can’t describe how I felt on January 26, 2017, when I was presented with the American Spirit Award by Maj. Gen. Garret Harencak.

The American Spirit Award is the Air Force Recruiting Service’s highest form of recognition and is given to a civilian who has made a significant impact on airmen and the Air Force around the world. Many great leaders have been presented with this award, including Bob Hope, Dolly Parton and the Dallas Cowboys football team. I stand in awe of the people I’ve shared this award with.

When Maj. Gen. Harencak bestowed me with this honor, he said. “I can think of no better person to get this award. He’s a friend to each one of us in the Air Force. He’s our wingman. You know before you go into peril, your wingman will be there, and even when you didn’t know Dan, he was there for us.”

I have volunteered more than 3,000 hours of service to airmen and their families, and I’ve given more than 300 speeches to airmen around the world. I’ve served on military boards and I’ve spoken with troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa.

I’m not saying any of this to brag about my accomplishments. I’m relating these facts to express to you how grateful and dedicated I am to our military personnel and their families, especially as we recently celebrated The Fourth of July—a celebration of our freedoms and independence.

What these brave men and women do every single day leaves me awestruck and humbled. They put their lives on the line and face harrowing situations without a blink of an eye. Since the birth of our country, courageous military servicemen and women have served our country to protect our freedoms, our way of life, and the values our country stands for. They have fought, and many of them have died, through many wars and military actions. They stand between us and those who wish us harm, and no number of speeches or programs or awards could ever repay their dedication and service.

During this month, when we celebrate Independence Day, take the time to remember that we’re free because people fight for us to be free. It involves sacrifice, heroic actions and the valiant men and women on our front lines. My thanks could never be enough.


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