Luke, MacDill, Punta Gorda, Columbus and Davis-Monthan

Even though we performed the flyovers for the Rose Parade in Pasadena, the Daytona 500 and the Kobalt Tools 400, we hadn’t actually performed a traditional show until we performed at Luke Air Force Base, 15-16 March. For us, this was officially “Trip #1” of the 2014 season … For many of us, it was our first trip EVER as Thunderbirds, since some of us joined the squadron near the end of 2012, but before sequestration (so, we didn’t get a chance to travel anywhere.) For me, I already had a few shows under my belt, but Luke was only my second full show with me serving as Thunderbird 12.

There was a lot of positive anxiety among team members leading up to performing at Luke … The mood of the team changed dramatically as we hit the road again. It’s not that we were depressed during sequestration. But admittedly, we were getting tired of not traveling. After Luke, we hit up MacDill AFB and Punta Gorda (both in Florida) and then Columbus AFB (Missouri) and Davis-Monthan AFB (Arizona.)

Part of every location includes an opportunity to invite celebrities/athletes to fly with us. Doing this helps us tap into their fan base (in an effort to talk more about what the Air Force can offer.) If I’m fortunate enough to meet some of these people, I try to take a moment to ask them to say an inspirational message for Taj. I missed my chance to catch Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals at Luke AFB,

but so far, I’ve captured :

Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

and Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals.

I forgot to ask actor Anthony Mackie to send a message to Taj, but had a blast meeting him.

It’s not lost on me that meeting these people is not something the average Airman gets a chance to do. It makes me feel very lucky to be a part of this squadron, but it makes me even more aware of why the Thunderbirds exist … To represent the Air Force to those who may not otherwise have access.

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