African American Airman motivated to serve

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julia Santiago
  • 108th Wing

"I was motivated to join the military to serve my country," said Staff Sgt. Vince Stokes, a boom operator from the 141st Air Refueling Squadron, "I wanted to be an effective part of supporting a mission bigger than myself. I was also motivated to join the military for the camaraderie aspect."

Stokes has now served in the 108th Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard for seven years. The Air National Guard was established as a separate reserve component of the U.S. Air Force in Sept. 18, 1947, and has both a federal and state mission. The dual mission, a provision of the U. S. Constitution, results in each guardsman holding membership in the National Guard of his or her state and in the National Guard of the United States.

"As a boom operator, I enjoy traveling and seeing different areas of the world," said Stokes, "I enjoy meeting new people and learning about the different cultures that I encounter. I enjoy the support I provide to inter-theater and intra-theater operations. There is nothing better than seeing how my work directly impacts the mission. I am proud of my multiple deployments and volunteerism around the globe."

As an African American in the military, Stokes follows in a long line of African American service members. According to the official Tuskegee Airmen website, "In spite of adversity and limited opportunities, African Americans have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years. They were denied military leadership roles and skilled training because many believed they lacked qualifications for combat duty. Before 1940, African-Americans were barred from flying for the U.S. military."

"Continuing the legacy of African Americans who served in the military is another reason why I continue to serve," said Stokes, "I feel like it is my duty to serve. The Tuskegee Airmen and other lesser known African Americans that served in the military provided the foundation for us to serve today. I enjoy serving and creating my own legacy for the generation of African Americans that will follow in my footsteps someday."

Stokes hopes to commission as an officer and become a pilot.

"A quote that drives me to continue to serve is 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.' said by Martin Luther King Jr.," said Stokes.