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Family, you are the real MVPs

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- When National Basketball Association superstar, Kevin Durant, was named the league's 2014 Most Valuable Player on May 6, he delivered a gratitude-filled acceptance speech in which he thanked his teammates and coaches for their support on his way to the top. But what grabbed the attention of the American public was the emotional tribute he gave to his mother, Wanda Pratt.

"When something good happens to you, I don't know about you guys, but I tend to look back to what brought me here," Durant said.

He highlighted the sacrifices his mother made to ensure he and his brothers stayed on the right track. In the end, he dedicated the award to her.

"You sacrificed for us," he said. "You (are) the real MVP."

Growing up I did not endure the hardships that Kevin Durant and his family experienced, but Durant's speech brought to mind how truly blessed and thankful I am for my own mother. Her unconditional love, devotion and fierce protection throughout my life have made me who I am today.

While I owe so much to both my mother and father, as a military member Durant's words caused me to reflect more on my wife and son and the gratitude I feel for them. Do I appreciate my immediate family enough for all the sacrifices they make for me as a military member and for our nation? It's one thing to think it, but am I doing enough to show them my love and appreciation?

It's understood that our chosen profession demands a lot from our families. Military life is synonymous with moving. Military members and their families move often as needs of the Air Force demand multifaceted skill sets all over the world.

Then there are the deployments, when spouses and children are left behind to worry about our safety and to cope with the challenges of everyday life alone. Even those of us who remain stateside sometimes spend long hours away from family, at the office supporting the war effort.

Just a few days after Durant's speech, President Obama called for a Military Spouse Appreciation Day.

"Our military spouses embody ideals we cherish: strength, loyalty, and commitment," he said in a statement. "They stand beside those who stand behind our flag, giving their all and making tremendous sacrifices."

The President went on to say our spouses are the "force behind the force." I couldn't agree more. I'd even include our children in that force. I know my son inspires me to be the best service member I can be, so that he can be proud of his Dad. At the end of a long day, nothing's more restorative than a hug from him.

As for my wife, she finds a home for us each time we move and often has to sell or rent out the last home. The time and effort she spends on related research and analysis rivals a decision brief to the Secretary of Defense. Once we arrive, she's got the pictures up and the house in order within 24 to 36 hours. She is there to care for and support our son when work calls me away.

I've only been awarded an NBA MVP award in my dreams, but I have been fortunate enough to have been selected for promotion to colonel during my waking hours. I know my accomplishments would not have been possible without my family, so to my parents, my wife and son -- you are the real MVPs.