Change is afoot. I will be away from Geneseo and Livingston County soon, for 90 days, on military service in the Air Force Reserve. Today I want to explain to readers what that’s all about, and what the plan is for the GeneseeSun.com. The Sun’s operations will be continuing, hopefully with minimal visible difference.
Nearly a year ago I was attending a meeting at the Geneseo VFW, sitting quietly and enjoying the old timers’ chatter. Being an Army veteran of the 101st Airborne from 1996-99, I greatly appreciate the sacrifices of the previous generations and those that are returning home now. I spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about our vets, our nation, and our regional ties to the birth of our freedom. I have an ongoing love affair with the history of our Valley. I don’t have the smarts to call myself a “history buff,” but I respect our history. I respect the sacrifices of generations previous to this one. And gradually, this affair led me to a pretty simple question: “Can I serve again?”
After my original service in the 1990s I revisited the military lifestyle when I went over to Iraq as an embed journalist in 2005. The change in military culture from 1999 to 2005 was night and day. It was shocking how non-commissioned officers treated lower-ranked enlisted troops. It truly was a whole new military – and that was in 2005. Today, even more so, our military has ‘evolved’ into a new order. Honestly I have some doubts over the new way – and what seems to me light-natured ways of instilling discipline.
I met briefly with a recruiter from a local Army Reserve Unit, and realized that the Army hoo-rah bug had worked its way through me and that wouldn’t be a good fit. My grandfather was a photographer the Air Force, which makes me a second generation combat photographer. Considering that family connection, so I called the Air Force Reserve, and I was fortunate enough to meet a fantastic recruiter, MSGT. Matthew Fletcher from the 914th Air Wing in Niagara Falls.
So I began the application process again, this time knowing that passing the physical and the background checks would be a long shot. I figured, if I could pass a physical or a security clearance, after my numerous business adventures and misadventures and my travels abroad as a journalist, sometimes in war zones, why not give it a shot? I have to admit, it was a bit surreal during the medical process walking around like a duck with the other recruits. I was old enough to be their father, for crying out loud. Somehow I passed. Granted, I am in marathon shape; but you never know how those military physicals can turn out.
After I passed the physical I called up Lt. Col. Martha Wadsworth, whose family’s history of military service dates back to the birth of our nation, and Lt. Col. Wadsworth and my recruiter swore me into the Air Force. In a little gathering in my office on Main Street in Geneseo I raised my hand and for the second time swore an oath to our nation. It was a special moment, something I won’t ever forget, and I could feel the pride of previous generations as a Wadsworth swore me into my grandfather’s Air Force. And now, after a few months and a rather awkward security clearance interview that was more like a few hours in a confessional, I head to training school in Wichita Falls, Texas, for 90 days. I am scheduled to leave in early February .
Here’s the plan for the Sun for the next 90 days. I have a great group of interns, and my dad, Mike Williams, who will take over the main work of running the Sun. I will be available online after 5 p.m, to handle matters, but the team will handle the day to day operations. I’m asking you, our readers and our sources, to please be understanding. We can use your help. We have a ton of technology on our side, and I’m only going to Texas, not to the middle east or an island in the Pacific Ocean. Working together, the Sun and our community have accomplished a tremendous amount in the past three years. I’m grateful, and I apologize if this new commitment of mine is selfish. But if the Sun can’t survive 90 days without me, then what I have built? The Sun has never been about Josh Williams – something I’ve had to remind myself, and be reminded of, from time to time. It’s been about bringing a light to the community.
So I’m asking a favor. I’m asking for 90 days of patience and understanding as I travel to Texas to serve our nation. Thanks in large part to a great staff of interns and family, I’ll be able to operate the Sun long-distance. I hope that you – the community – will continue to be our eyes and ears. Please email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We have talented, aspiring, hard-working journalists ready to seize the opportunity and follow up. And if you would like to be a contributor, by the way, please email me at email@example.com. The community always has a voice at the Sun.
To be honest, I don’t care if I have to clean a pilot’s toilet seat. I’m happy to be the flea on the back of the dog called freedom. I don’t care if I have to shine a brass button or sweep a parking lot. What I do care about is being a good soldier, contributing to our nation as we continue the centuries-long project of redefining ourselves. I want to be a participant in history, and not just watch it happen and complain.
I used to think, “I’ve already served. I’m clear of that obligation.” Sitting at that table at the VFW and listening to the other veterans share their tales of service gave me goose bumps, though, and I realized something. The men and woman that have served before me are heroes, and I’d be lucky to share the same uniform. I used to bartend, for a while, at the Springbrook Inn. One of the regulars was an old timer, a World War II veteran named Harold. Harold was a combat engineer in WWII, and he has since passed away. He and I always got along well, and swapped Army tales, and as he walked away from the bar he always left me with the same saying: “Old soldiers never die, they just walk off into the woods.”
From what I know about Texas, I am not walking off into the woods. In any case, my hope is that this community will be understanding as I serve. If you have any questions feel free to email me, and please support the businesses that advertise with the Sun. Their commitment to our community should also be noted and appreciated.
I love our community and the Sun. I also love our great nation and am willing to be the flea — to help complete the mission. Thank you all for your love and support.