Embracing familial heroes and enduring legacies

by | Dec 15, 2023 | News

Airman 1st. Class Corey Case receives the distinguished Commandant Award.

The graduation ceremony for the Russian Chinese school at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Dec. 14 wasn’t just about academic achievements; it was also a poignant family story for one Airman.

Airman 1st. Class Corey Case, the distinguished Commandant Award Winner, requested a special honor: to have his speech delivered by his uncle, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. George Carroll. This request, stemming from Case’s deep personal connections and current life challenges, turned this graduation into a memorable event that transcended the usual pomp and circumstance.

“My uncle always represented an inspiration to me; the only change was how this inspiration was delivered,” Case said with admiration.

Case’s journey to this moment was intimately tied to his uncle’s influence. Carroll, a figure of inspiration and guidance for Case’s entire life, played a pivotal role in Case’s initial decision to join the Air Force and pursue a career as a linguist.

“As I grew up, he was a symbol or strength and wisdom,” Case reminisced. “But as I considered the armed forces, he became a symbol of guidance and a true warrior spirit.”

His mentorship extending beyond family ties, Carroll introduced young Case to the cohesive community of the Air Force through multiple venues, like the Air Force Sergeants Association, where Case’s aspirations took flight. These ambitions were further fueled by encounters with notable figures like Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman, who gave Case his first challenge coin.

Case added, remembering that moment fondly, “He showed me the culture of the service, what it meant to be an airman, and I was convinced.”

This unique honor of having his uncle not just in the audience, but an active participant on the dais, was not just about recognizing academic excellence, but about honoring a familial bond, a shared legacy of service and the profound impact of mentorship.

“The stories of his experiences and the honor he felt as a [member of the] Security Forces was truly overwhelming,” said Case, “Solidifying my commitment to serve.”

Airman 1st. Class Case (center) stands with Lt. Col. Daniel Bashaw, USAF (left) and his uncle, retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. George Carroll (right), who was a major influence on his joining the Air Force.

However, Case felt language was his calling and was elated to find that he would have the opportunity to make his own name by becoming an Air Force linguist. Drawing from a lifelong passion for language, Case identified how language serves as both a medium for expressing a society’s heritage and a portal to its cultural intricacies. Case explains, “It is through these perspectives that my appreciation for language deepened, fostering a profound and genuine affection for the opportunities it affords. In contrast to more ostentatious roles such as a pilot, I personally felt it lacked the capacity to bridge those cultural and civilizational barriers in the same way linguists can.”

Senior Master Sgt. Chris Loftus, who met with Case in preparation for the speech, supported this heartfelt request regarding his uncle from the onset, recognizing the unique circumstances surrounding it. The concurrence from the commandant’s office not only fulfilled Case’s wish but also underscored the values of family and mentorship within the military community.

As DLIFLC celebrates its graduates, Case’s story stands out as a testament to the enduring bonds and influences that shape our service members. His academic achievement, combined with the deep personal narrative of his relationship with his uncle, offers a stirring reminder of the human stories behind people in uniform.

“I was undeniably honored, yet, more significantly, profoundly humbled by the recognition,” Case remarked. “During my time here, I have witnessed numerous individuals whom I deeply admire, receive the same award and subsequently effect transformative changes across the armed services.

Case receiving his award.

The graduation ceremony, attended by distinguished guests and fellow service members, was an event of not just academic commendation but of emotional resonance, as one young airman honored the legacy of his mentor and hero.

“The pride I feel today and ever since I joined is indescribable. I will be disappointed the day the Air Force removes me for exceeding ‘age regulations,’” he said.