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Family Ties

Senior Master Sgt. David Sparkman, Occupational Safety Manager, and Staff Sgt. Tyler Sparkman, Metals Technology Craftsman, pose for a photo at the 171st Air Refueling Wing, June 6, 2021. The father-son duo are both assigned to the 171st, just outside Pittsburgh, Pa. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Brooks)

Senior Master Sgt. David Sparkman, Occupational Safety Manager, and Staff Sgt. Tyler Sparkman, Metals Technology Craftsman, pose for a photo at the 171st Air Refueling Wing, June 6, 2021. The father-son duo are both assigned to the 171st, just outside Pittsburgh, Pa. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Kyle Brooks)

CORAOPOLIS, Pa. --

Parents are caregivers, taking care of their children’s physical and emotional well-being. They provide guidance and support to their children, helping to shape and mold young adolescents into adults, and in some cases, service members.

This is how Staff Sgt. Tyler Sparkman, a machinist in the 171st Maintenance Squadron, discovered his call to serve.

“As a kid, I was out here (171st Air Refueling Wing) every family day. Dad would bring us out here all the time,” said Tyler.

Tyler started his career in the Marines, and in 2016, he joined the Air National Guard.

“There was never any pressure to join,” said Tyler. “It has almost been like a second home.”

Now, Tyler serves alongside his father, Senior Master Sgt. David Sparkman, an occupational safety manager at the 171st ARW who has served in the Air National Guard for almost 30 years.

“It’s a sense of pride for me,” says David. “I’ve made friends over the years, and when you walk into a shop and someone tells you ‘I met your son and he really helped me out’, as a dad, that’s special — seeing my son wear the same uniform as me,” said David.

The relationship between a father and son is certainly special and the pride between parents and children is also reciprocal.

“Seeing everything my dad’s done and being a part of that now, it’s something I can’t even describe,” said Tyler. “I just can’t find the words.”

It is also natural as a parent to worry about your children. Luckily, the 171st has many airmen who have relatives serving together, providing a supportive environment in which airmen can develop.

“As a parent, you always worry about your children, but seeing your child develop and realizing all the guidance you gave actually did something is amazing,” said David. “When he decided to join the guard, I felt my chest swell.”

“There’s just something about the guard, everyone is here for the same purpose. It’s a common unity of understanding,” said Tyler.

As the 171st continues to promote and foster cohesive, supportive teams, we also remain mission oriented, knowing our families are always behind us and in some cases, beside us.