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Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity headed to America’s Heartland

OMAHA, Neb. -- Thousands of people poured onto the streets of Philadelphia for their annual Veterans Day parade recently.

This year, however, the citizens of Philly were treated to something unique. Hundreds of men and women of the U.S. Air Force joined their celebrations, bringing with them high-tech equipment and an incredible flyover that had everyone's eyes looking skyward.

This year, the U.S. Air Force has chosen three cities to showcase the Air Force - Philadelphia, Omaha and Los Angeles - and give the public an up-close and personal encounter with the men and women of their Air Force that are on the front lines.

Philadelphia's week was packed with many opportunities for the city to meet our Air Force. I heard the morning cheers of Philadelphians as our Airmen marched in Bridesburg Memorial Day Parade, and that night I watched as thousands of curious Phillies fans took a little longer to enter the ballpark as numerous Air Force stations set up in the area piqued their interest.

Each event brought the people of the city closer to our Air Force, and by the end of my time there, I felt a renewed sense of community between civilians and Air Force personnel.

Omaha is the next stop which will allow people to take this incredible journey.

When I returned home from Philadelphia, I knew my job as director of Air Force Week in the Heartland was even bigger than I'd realized. Not just the day-to-day planning and the logistics of the event, but the opportunity to widen the scope of our focus from Offutt into the neighboring areas and beyond.

The reach of our Air Force is very impressive - with bases all over the world and continuous operations spanning the globe. We can provide incredible flexibility and speed to carry out our missions, ranging from defending the United States to relief efforts on the other side of the planet. So it only makes sense that we'd want to take some of that far-reaching capability and extend it to the folks next door to us.

Involving the local community in Air Force Week activities is a mutually beneficial endeavor. Many patriotic and generous community members have formed committees to support events throughout Air Force Week in the Heartland Aug. 9 - 17.

Our Air Force Week will kick off with an awesome show at Rosenblatt Stadium Aug. 9 which is free to the public.

Events like the Offutt AFB Open House and Air Show give us a chance to showcase our professional Airmen and tremendous air power, while educating and bonding with our neighbors.

During this year's open house Aug. 16 and 17, a record number of aerial demonstrations will amaze and inform like never before.

The Air Force Tops in Blue concert at the Omaha Civic Auditorium will thrill and excite the public with the many talents our Airmen possess beyond those that they use in their everyday jobs.

The Air Force will also reach out to communities throughout the Heartland in places like Kool-Aid Days in Hastings, Neb., and community outreach events as far away as Des Moines, Iowa, and Kimball, Neb.

I encourage all of you to grab a neighbor and get out and join us at as many events as you can. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the amazing capabilities of our Air Force and hear some of our Airmen's stories.

Air Force Week in the Heartland will be talked about and saluted for many years to come. Don't miss your opportunity to be a part of it.