Tradition follows AF major to Southwest Asia, through career

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Samuel King
  • US Central Air Forces Public Affairs
Growing up in New England, she watched her father's daily tradition of raising and lowering the National Colors. It was a symbol of not only his pride, but of the entire family. Maj. Eileen LaBrecque continued the proud tradition of military service with her family July 16, as she swore in her husband Craig, during his promotion ceremony to captain.

The ceremony was conducted via video teleconferencing between her base in Southwest Asia and his at Eglin AFB, Fla.

As Major LaBrecque reflected on this new tradition and of her father's tradition which spanned her life, she knows her calling is clearly greater than herself. She currently serves as the Air Force's senior finance officer in Southwest Asia, a year-long assignment.

Without question, managing the funds for all Air Force units throughout the region is no simple task. It takes dedication, personal discipline and purpose. It takes that same degree of dedication to raise and lower the American flag everyday, rain or shine, sickness or health.

She was born Eileen St. Laurent growing up in Methuen, Mass. There she attended Methuen High School and eventually attended and graduated from the University of Massachusetts.

With a seemingly small town beginning, how does the youngest of nine find herself in Southwest Asia on her second deployment in as many years? For the major it goes back to watching dad raise and lower that flag - a family tradition.

"My dad served in the Navy during World War II," she said. "Though he only served his mandatory couple of years, I've also seen service throughout my family. A brother is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and another was enlisted in Vietnam. I have a cousin who is an Air Force chief master sergeant and a nephew serving in the Navy in Afghanistan. I also have a cousin serving in the Army in Iraq and he followed his father's footsteps who served in Vietnam."

While attending UMASS for a year as a business major, Major LaBrecque decided to follow that family tradition and enlist in the Air Force.

Serving as an avionics guidance and control technician, she never lost her desire to complete her degree and become an officer.

Through a special Air Force program, she left active duty and returned to UMASS as a full time student in 1994. In 1996, she was commissioned and began her career as a personnel officer at Hanscom AFB, Mass.

For more than 12 years she served without having to deploy but like many other lives, hers was changed after Sept. 11, 2001. It was time to make some difficult decisions.

"When you reach the 10-year point you have to decide whether it's time to continue or leave," said the major. "For Craig and I, it's a way life. As we see it, by continuing our military service we're securing our children's future."
But that security comes with a price in the form of separation.

The LaBrecques have three children. Hannah is 13, Corey is 10 and Emma is 6. And as expected, the hardest part of deploying is the time away from them. But they manage by bridging the distance through weekly cards and gifts which includes adding to Corey's boonie cap collection. Though understanding is still a challenge for Emma, her mother said, "The two older ones get it."

The LaBrecques, whether serving stateside or deployed, also "get" the value of tradition and service. They understand it starts with a strong marriage that has spanned more than 15 years and a family who supports and understands. 

So when your father, now 83, raises and lowers the flag everyday, it's easy to see that the whole family "gets it."

The LaBrecque family gathered together this week to take part in another tradition - Craig's promotion to the rank of captain. It was during that ceremony that the new captain spoke of his own devotion to service and tradition.

"This day and our service are all about the red, white and blue," Capt. LaBrecque said as he pointed to the stars and stripes of the United States flag. "Eileen had a flag flown in Afghanistan and I look at it and it reminds me of the sacrifices - when my father served in Vietnam and when my grandfather served in World War II at Iwo Jima."

For the LaBrecques, service really is a family business - a business that celebrates their patriotism, their family and long standing traditions.

Capt. Craig LaBrecque is the son of Larry and Claudette of Ocala, Fla.

Captain LaBrecque is assigned to the 36th Electronic Warfare Squadron at Eglin AFB, Fla., where Craig is an engineer and Eileen was formerly assigned there as the 53rd Wing's Comptroller.