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Inspiring Stories of Service with a strip of burlap, American flag and metal star laying on top

By Larry Speer, Berlin Brats class of ’83

Sometimes military brats have trouble answering the question “Where are you from?” As a 17-year-old freshman at the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), I never had trouble with it. “Berlin,” was always my quick answer. Of course, the explanation took a little longer, but it was obvious after I explained I lived in Berlin three separate times growing up. I spent my last three years at Berlin American High School as a member of the class of 1983. Even then we were all aware enough to realize our years spent in the divided city were unique, and our experiences made us just a bit more worldly than the average bear. Being a military brat did not really set me apart at a military academy, but I quickly learned that most kids did not have any idea what it was like to have lived overseas.

The second part of my triple whammy was being a zoomie. Zoomie is a term for a cadet or a graduate of USAFA. Being a zoomie is a strong identity trait and provides for great rivalries with our brothers and sisters from West Point and Annapolis. Being a zoomie and a military brat certainly was not a unique circumstance at the academy or out in the real Air Force. I soon realized I had a third trait that I thought made me one of a kind. I’m also a PK, a preacher’s kid. My dad was the brigade chaplain at McNair 1969-1972. The stereotypical PK is precocious and perhaps wayward. I never thought of myself as that, but being a PK isn’t very common. It wasn’t until 2001 that I met another triple whammy.

As Berlin Brats, we are honored to claim anyone among our own, but Maj. Gen. Rick Martin is one who has met with more success than most. It was a great privilege to share the stage with him at a pinning-on ceremony for Lt. Col. Michelle Estes at the 2012 reunion in Washington, D.C.

Surprisingly, I also paired up with Gen. Martin (his first name will always have to be General to me) on a shuttle ride from the hotel to the airport after the reunion in Phoenix in 2009. It seems we are somehow drawn together by forces greater than ourselves all around the world. The fact that we are also both pilots could make for a quadruple whammy, but I’ll leave it at triple for now.

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