Bedford Public Library Hosts Retirement Ceremony for Master Sergeant Kaia Santana, USAF

Flag-presentation
At the end of the ceremony, a folded US flag was presented to Master Sargent Kaia Santana as her daughter Joy looked on – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to see larger image

By Dot Bergin

Master Sargent Kaia Santana's mentor Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) Candace Crute who traveled from Texas for the ceremony (l) and presiding officer for the day Captain Ashley M. Franklin (r) with Joy Santana (c) - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
Master Sargent Kaia Santana’s mentor Chief Master Sergeant (Ret.) Candace Crute who traveled from Texas for the ceremony (l) and presiding officer for the day Captain Ashley M. Franklin (r) with Joy Santana (c) – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

The Bedford Public Library and the Town of Bedford were honored to host the retirement ceremony of Air Force Master Sgt. Kaia Santana on August 26 in the Library’s “Hall of Flags.”

For the Bedford residents in attendance, a natural question was “Why did Master Sgt. Santana choose the Library as the place where she wanted her ceremony held?” In a brief conversation, she smilingly said the Library had meant a great deal to her and her children. Stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, the family was able to enjoy the story times and all the programs offered at the library, and it was a “happy place” for her. She also mentioned the connection with the Bedford Flag, “the first battle flag in the country,” as being important to her.

Master Sargent Santana's husband Josue offered the invocation as the ceremony began - image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
Master Sargent Santana’s husband Josue offered the invocation as the ceremony began – image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

In an emotional and heartwarming ceremony, Santana’s colleagues paid tribute to her 19-plus years of service that included tours of duty in Iraq, Greece, Guam, and Japan.  The event began with a rousing a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, by Tim Martin.  Santana’s husband Josue delivered the invocation to the assembled guests, who included the honoree’s three children: 12-year-old Xavier, two- year-old Joy (a vision in pink tutu and sparkly shoes) and one-year-old Miguel.

Family and friends attended the ceremony - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
Family, colleagues and friends attended the ceremony – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

Presiding officer for the occasion was Captain Ashley M. Franklin, Executive Officer for the  Space, Aerial & Nuclear Network Division, C31 and Network Directorate, Hanscom AFB, who recounted Santana’s military journey beginning with her enlistment at age 19.  Her original goal? Santana wanted to become a chef and she thought joining the Air Force could help her attend culinary school. And indeed, she did become a culinary expert but that was only the beginning of her career.

 

As Captain Franklin said, Santana soon realized there were more ways to serve than working in the kitchen. Throughout her career, Franklin said, she has always been learning, growing, and expanding her knowledge. Her determination, ambition and her deep faith enabled Santana to advance to her present position. And Franklin noted she was always willing to go out of her way to improve morale and make things better for others in her unit.

Santana’s career path eventually led her to contracting school, where she earned a commendation as distinguished graduate. From 2004 to 2014, she served as contracting specialist in DC, Guam, and Japan. When she came to Hanscom in 2014, the final role of her active service was as Quality Assurance Program Coordinator, with responsibility for the management and training of Contracting Officer Representatives for over 60 service-based contracts.

In her remarks, Captain Franklin noted that it is really hard to achieve the rank of master sergeant, and add to that the fact that Santana is a woman “and an African American woman at that.”

Master Sargent Kaia Santana and her son Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
Master Sargent Kaia Santana’s son Isaac shows the gifts his mother gave him in commemoration of their service in Guam and Japan Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

Santana’s first child Xavier was born in 2004, and he was with her on her tours of duty in Guam and Japan. Both say those tours were their best assignments.  In 2014, Santana and Josue, her kindergarten sweetheart, were married and now have Joy, age 2, and Miguel, 1, who were very much a part of the ceremony.

Among the many presentations to Santana were certificates of appreciation from Commander in Chief Barack Obama; from Colonel Roman Hund, Hanscom AFB commanding officer, and from James Cody, Chief Master Sergeant of the U.S. Air Force. Certificates also went to husband Josue and to the children, in acknowledgment of the importance of families to Air Force members.

The commemorative shadow box - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
The commemorative shadow box – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

In an interesting tradition dating to the British navy, Santana was presented with a “Shadow Box,” which is literally a large wooden box, enclosed in glass, with mementos of her accomplishments on all her tours of duty.

The honoree spoke of her faith and belief that life is precious. She, in turn, presented bouquets of flowers for her mentor, retired Chief Master Sergeant Candace Crute, who came from Texas for the occasion; for Captain Franklin; for her husband and children; and for other colleagues who have been important in her life.

After singing the Air Force song, the guests then assembled in front of the Library for a flag ceremony, and the presentation of the United States flag to MSgt Santana.

A flag ceremony concluded the proceedings - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved - Click to view larger image
A flag ceremony concluded the proceedings – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image
The guests gathered on the steps of the library at the end of the ceremony - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved
The guests gathered on the steps of the library at the end of the ceremony – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved – Click to view larger image

To bring her story full circle, MSgt Santana, whose last day of service is September 6, will be moving to Montpelier, VT to attend culinary school!  One can only speculate that her proficiency in administering contracts with many suppliers may stand her in good stead should she ever decide to open her own restaurant.  Best wishes from all of us in Bedford to the Santana family!


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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