Interview with a Veteran - TJ Thomson
U.S. Air Force, Active Duty. 9th Bomber Squadron, Dyess AFB, Abilene, TX
Dates joined and dismissed
Nov. 1992-Feb. 1995 – Honorable Discharge.
My mother passed away in January, 1995, and I left the Air Force early to assist my family with this difficult, and unexpected, loss. In particular, my sister was taking it extremely hard and needed to be surrounded by additional family. It’s called a “mental hardship discharge”. I was lucky to serve during a time of relative peace in the world and the enlistment rate at my base was over 125%, which allowed an early honorable discharge. However, it was difficult to leave a position I enjoyed and break good friendships that had developed over the years.
Avionics Technician Specialist (Autopilot/Instruments) on the B-1 Bomber
Airman First Class
Why did you join the service?
I have always been very patriotic and a big fan of colonial American history. My passion in these areas sparked my interest to join. My grandfather served in WWII and my father served in Vietnam. I wanted to serve as they had served. Also, I was raised in a single-parent household (by my mother) and never had money for college. This served as an opportunity to acquire financial help through the G.I. Bill, which assisted me greatly as a college student attending Boise State University.
What do you do now?
In memory of my mother, I fight to prevent suicide deaths, presently serving as the Field Liaison in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District for the U.S. Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN) and recently on SPAN Idaho’s Board of Directors. In particular, suicide deaths are on the rise in the military and I want to continue highlighting this as an area in need of special attention.
As a new member to the Boise City Council, it is a top priority of mine to create a Veterans Commission within the City of Boise. I feel it is important to create a direct link between the City of Boise and our local Veterans. We will be able to stay in continuous contact with our local Veterans, assist with military events and holidays, and adjust policy to assist military personnel with things such as affordable housing.
In prior years, I served as Bill Clinton’s Veterans State Chair (Idaho) during his 1996 re-election campaign and Barack Obama’s Veterans State Chair (Idaho) in 2008.
In November, 2009, I was elected to public office and now serve on the Boise City Council. Also, I work for Idaho Power Company as a Certified Internal Auditor – a role that focuses on the efficient use of resources and the integration of controls to promote ethical and open company practices. In prior years, I have served as a NASA Policy Analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, D.C., and Program Evaluator with the Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations. In 1997, I served as Student Body President at Boise State University.
For pleasure (hobbies, etc.)
I have been happily married for almost 7 years to my wife, Alisha. Together, we enjoy the many wonderful aspects of living in Idaho, including: fishing, skiing, boating, and biking and hiking in Boise’s beautiful foothills. We also enjoy scuba diving together and camping all across Idaho in the great outdoors.
What was the best thing about the service?
The camaraderie, the brotherhood. It is incomparable to any other work I have ever performed. You work as a team, as one unit – to achieve your mission and assist the entire effort. Team sports is comparable in nature, but I have never seen anything comparable in another line of work. There is simply no comparison to the friendships you develop in the service.
What was the worst thing about the service?
The long-hour work days. And, as someone that enjoys cold weather, the Texas heat was difficult to enjoy.
During your transition from active service to veteran, what or who was the most helpful?
My family. They helped me adjust and pushed me to go straight into college to get my new career started.
During your transition from active service to veteran, what or who was the most frustrating?
It seemed like the world moved much slower outside of my prior military life and acclimating to this much slower pace took some time. Returning to life as a civilian required adjusting to a world that works on an 8-5 work day, not 24-7, as I was used to in the service.
What advice would you give to someone entering the service?
The military is about details. Learn to become detail-oriented prior to entering the service. If there is a particular field of work you enjoy and would like to be a part of in the service, prepare and study hard for that section of the ASVAB. If you do well in that area on the test, it will nearly assure you are able to join the profession you are passionate about. Once you enter the military, focus on creating strong bonds with the service members around you. The military is about being a team and working as one unit.
What advice would you give to someone leaving the service?
Get involved! Go back to school. Join clubs and organizations. Do things to get involved in your community.
As a veteran, what/when was your proudest moment?
When I graduated from Basic Training, and then Technical Training, my mother visited me at Lowery AFB, CO, upon graduation, I remember the look in her eyes and how extremely proud she was of my accomplishments. That always stuck with me throughout my time in the military. My mother had realized at that moment that I had succeeded in achieving something great, something important. I was proud to be an Airman.
Here you are, speaking to thousands of veterans. What would you like to tell them?
We live in a country where it is not required to join the military; you made the choice to serve. There is no profession nobler than those that serve your country, including police and firemen. Thank you for serving.
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