Team March supports graduation

Team March members pose for a photo with Sean Kelly following his high school graduation ceremony in Long Beach, June 16, 2016. Sean is the son of Chief Master Sergeant Ericka Kelly, Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

Team March members pose for a photo with Sean Kelly following his high school graduation ceremony in Long Beach, June 16, 2016. Sean is the son of Chief Master Sergeant Ericka Kelly, Command Chief Master Sergeant, Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. -- One of the biggest sacrifices service members face while performing their duty to our country is missing out on important events in their family member’s lives. Service commitments can lead to missing out on birthdays, anniversaries and graduations.

As Command Chief Master Sergeant of Air Force Reserve Command, Chief Master Sergeant Ericka Kelly is no different. Her duties as AFRC command chief prevented her from attending her son Sean’s recent high school graduation ceremony at Woodrow Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach, California.

During the Chief’s Induction Ceremony held at March Air Reserve Base in May, Kelly mentioned that due to her schedule, she would be unable to attend her son’s graduation. Following the ceremony Master Sgt. Daryl Willingham, 452nd Aeromedical Staging Squadron 1st Sergeant, pulled Kelly aside and expressed his desire to have Citizen Airmen from Team March represent her at Sean’s graduation ceremony.

“I said ma'am, you are always there for us, let us be there to cheer for your son in your absence… she was so happy,” said Willingham. “Next, I mentioned the idea to the 1st Sergeant's around me and they were all in, then I spoke to the Long Beach school superintendent to explain the situation and they gave me 10 passes to the event.”

In all, nine Citizen Airman from Team March comprised of 1st Sergeants, Top 3 and Rising 6 representatives, attended the ceremony to represent the command chief and support Sean on his big day.

Kelly spent almost 20 years as a Reservist assigned to Team March, rising to the position of Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 452nd Air Mobility Wing, a position she held from 2010 – 2014.

“Chief Kelly's legacy is forever cemented in the hearts and minds of the airman at March ARB, she works so hard for us, this is the least we can do for her and her family.” Willingham added.

Kelly was very appreciative of the gesture by members of the base where she spent the majority of her career.

“The March Airmen gave me a gift and showed me and my son that Airmen take care of each other, they are my family and there is no way to truly express our gratitude.” Kelly said. “Because of the mentorship and guidance I received as an Airman with the 452nd, March will always be my home.”

For Willingham, standing in for Kelly and showing support for Sean was a not only the right thing to do as a Citizen Airman, but as someone who experienced a graduation without a family member present, it was the right thing to do period.

“My mom was busy and couldn’t make it to my 8th grade graduation ceremony, so when I stepped on stage no one cheered when my name was called, it turn out to be the loneliest 3 mile walk home.” Willingham recalled. “So it was an absolute honor to be there on behalf of our AFRC Command Chief and to see the passion, esprit de corps and fire in the eyes of my fellow 1st Sergeants, Top 3 and Rising 6 brothers and sisters while attending Sean Kelly's graduation, was amazing.”