Editor’s note: Michele R. Weslander Quaid, a Santa Barbara resident who was a congressional candidate in the June primary, felt inspired to write this commentary after the recent Veterans Day service at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.
We are the home of the free because of the brave.
Veterans Day is a time for all Americans to pay tribute to the men and women who have chosen to serve the United States of America in uniform at home and abroad.
I have a natural affinity for our military. It was my pleasure to serve alongside them during my national security career — both stateside and overseas, including the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan — and I was honored to receive the call sign “Warrior Goddess” from our special operations forces.
My beloved husband, Christopher N. Quaid, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1994. He was a master space operator. Throughout his career, Chris led efforts to enhance warfighter access to data, services, and technical and operational expertise. He was fond of saying, “We are Ameri-cans, not Ameri-can’ts!” and accomplished things others considered impossible for the benefit of the mission.
In 2006, while serving on Air Staff at the Pentagon, he volunteered to be trained by the U.S. Navy as an electronic warfare officer, then went to Afghanistan in 2007 to support the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne as an EWO and battlefield airman. The U.S. Army gave Chris the call sign “HALO.”
Upon returning home, he served as a mission director for the National Reconnaissance Office’s entire imagery satellite constellation. Chris also led the creation of joint collaboration cells across the intelligence community and the Department of Defense to support global tactical operations based on his experience in OIF and OEF. His decorations included the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with service star, and the Air Force Expeditionary Service Medal.
In December 2015, Chris retired from the U.S. Air Force after over 22 years of honorable service.
On his first day of retirement in January 2016, I had to take him to the ER, where we learned he had a life-threatening brain tumor. A few days later, Chris had life-saving emergency brain surgery. He fought valiantly with our daughter Sophia and me by his side on the battlefront that is the military/veteran healthcare system. Ultimately his war-torn body gave out. Chris died in our arms on Dec. 16, 2017.
Sophia and I know that freedom is not free. Chris loved the United States of America and our country’s founding principles. He was willing to give his life for the cause of liberty. Though Chris did not die on the battlefield, he died of a service-connected illness (glioblastoma) after returning home.
Today, veterans suffer from service-connected illnesses, injuries, PTSD and homelessness. Tragically, we are losing an average of 22 veterans daily to suicide. Those who risked their lives for our freedom deserve the best our country can provide.
May we never forget that we owe our veterans a debt we can never repay. They deserve our thanks every day and our unwavering commitment to ensure they receive the best care and the support they deserve in their time of need. Let us honor their sacrifice by standing united for the cause of liberty for which they risked their lives.
To our veterans and your families, thank you for your service to our country! May God bless you and continue to bless the United States of America, home of the free because of the brave.