CAMP KONOTOP, Poland (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)
The U.S. military has a rich history, beginning with the Continental Army and extending to present day operations around the world, but for Senior Airman Steven Adkins, his own military history can be found in his backpack.
A Kentucky state flag given to him by his grandfather, a retired Air Force veteran, embodies his family's military heritage.
"After I got home from basic training and tech school, and before I went to my first base, my grandpa pulls a plastic baggy out of the closet with a manila envelope inside," Adkins said. "Inside the envelope is the Kentucky state flag with a ledger documenting all the places he took it his last six years of the 22 years he spent in the Air Force."
After taking it out and showing it to him, his grandfather gave it to him and told him to keep the tradition going.
"I was just kind of blown away," Adkins said. "I was like this flag is this old and has been to this many places across the world."
Adkins, who's just starting his Air Force journey, plans on making it a career, following in his grandfather's footsteps.
Working at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, in support of Saber Strike 15, a long-standing U.S. Army Europe-led multinational training exercise, Adkins will add Poland to the ledger, continuing his grandfather's nation-hopping tradition.
This year's exercise occurs across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to improve joint operational capability in a range of missions, as well as preparing the participating nations and units to support multinational contingency operations.
Adkins said he waited until after graduating college with a degree in broadcasting to join the Air Force as a journalist, but due to the influence his grandfather had on him, the Air Force was the only service he considered.
"I had always had serving in the military in the back of my mind, but decided to go to college first," Adkins said. "When I graduated, I seriously couldn't afford to use a broadcasting degree in the civilian sector, so I looked into the services, but the Air Force was the only branch I was interested in going into because of him."
The ties that bind the younger and senior Adkins run much deeper than just a piece of well-traveled cloth. The flag reminds him of the quality time he and his grandfather have spent together.
"I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with him growing up, but I think I have better memories of him after receiving the flag," Adkins said. "It signifies that I'm in the service that he spent 22 years in, so now anytime I go back home he's got somebody to talk shop with."
Adkins said this gives him a special bond with his grandfather, because this is something his grandfather hasn't been able to do since the ‘70s.
"I go home and we're talking all things Air Force, and it's an extra dynamic to our relationship that has really brought us closer together," Adkins said.
The flag is something that will continue to travel with service members of the Adkins family and will be a centerpiece of a room Adkins plans on having in his house.
"This flag kind of sparked a collection for me," Adkins said. "This flag brought on the idea of having a wall covered with flags of everywhere I've been, so any new country I go to I make sure to get one of that country's flag."
Adkins said eventually he would like to have a wall dedicated to the U.S., the U.S. Air Force and every country he's been to with his home state's flag in the center of it all.