By Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham, 192nd Wing
/ Published April 08, 2021
Maj. Nikkia Ray, 192nd Medical Group Public Health officer in charge, stops for a photo during a mass COVID-19 vaccination event March 14, 2021, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Ray is a 2nd generation Virginia Air National Guardsman. Her mother, retired Master Sgt. Alicia Kirton, served 23 years in the same unit. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham)
“My father was in the Army and we moved around all the time. As military children, it’s like we have our own special fraternity or special club. You become a group with an understanding, a shared experience and a shared bond. When someone asks ‘where are you from?’ military kids have to go into a detailed story. But I think that’s one of the best things about being a military kid; having that automatic connection to someone no matter where you go. Immediate connections and conversation, now you have a friend!
When my mom joined the military, I was in middle school, and it was a completely different experience. She retired from the 192nd Wing in 2018 after serving 23 years. She actually reenlisted so that I could swear her in and said that was the only time she would salute me! The guard family had such a huge impact on my mom, and I grew up in it.
We gained so much exposure to certain things. We learned about colonels, commanders and pilots — whole new career fields of things I could do one day. I work in epidemiology for the Virginia Department of Health and always knew I wanted to go into the public health field, but wouldn’t have known that I could also do this in service to my country. Those things we became aware of or gained an appreciation for, is unique to kids who grow up with military parents.
There is a pride and a passing of the torch for service in my family. I felt proud my mother was the first woman in our family to serve. To take that torch and become the next woman to serve is so important to me and a continuation of a legacy. Even though she enlisted and I commissioned, she had a lot of wisdom to pass down. One of the biggest things she kept pushing was ‘take care of your people.’ I have huge shoes to fill.” — Maj. Nikkia Ray, 192nd Medical Group Public Health officer in charge
Col. Christopher G. Batterton
Command Chief Master Sgt.
Richard A. Roberts