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Lakewood Ranch resident OK working in obscurity as an Air Force major

Maj. Aaron Traver says soldiers toil so American citizens don't have to worry daily about world's troubles.

Maj. Aaron Traver flies a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.
Maj. Aaron Traver flies a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker.
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Considering he has been deployed 11 times, I asked Maj. Aaron Traver of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron if he wonders whether citizens of the U.S. often think of our soldiers who put themselves in harm's way around the world.

We tend to think about our soldiers on special days, such as Memorial Day, but not so much on other days of the year.

The Summerfield resident, who is stationed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, surprised me with his answer.

Jay Heater: Side of Ranch
Jay Heater: Side of Ranch

"I hope not," he said. "I look at it in a different way. I don't want people to think about us on a day-to-day basis. That's why we are here ... so they don't have to dwell on war. I would rather they go about living unaffected. We don't do this for praise."

Traver returned home from his five-month assignment in Qatar in May. He flies a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, a military refueling aircraft that uses a "flying boom" pipe to connect with other aircraft.

The 2010 Air Force Academy graduate flies the KC-135 above the airplane to be refueled and then a crew member who operates the boom positions it to connect with the plane to be refueled. All this is being done at 300-plus mph.

Sounds pretty dangerous to me.

"I don't look at what's going on below me," Traver said with a laugh. "And everyone is trained so well."

Refueling in the air allows military aircraft to lengthen the time of their missions. A KC-135 can carry up to 200,000 pounds of fuel.

The military schedules those refueling flights out of Qatar, which is considered a strategic point in the Middle East.

"One day I will be in Iraq," he said. "The next in Afghanistan."

It all, of course, comes at a cost. 

Traver and his wife Susan have two girls, 5-year-old Penny and 3-year-old Blake. After his current commitment ends in two years, he expects to leave the Air Force so he can spend more time with his family.

"I'm ready to move on with my life," he said. "Kids grow up so quickly. Even when I am away for a month, they are different when you get home. And when you leave, they are not sure where (and why) you are going."

Maj. Aaron Traver wants to spend more time with his wife Susan and daughters Penny and Blake.
Maj. Aaron Traver wants to spend more time with his wife Susan and daughters Penny and Blake.

He said he will pursue a job in the commercial airline industry after he leaves the military and he isn't sure whether he will be able to remain in Lakewood Ranch.

"We love it here," he said. "Lakewood Ranch feels like one, big community and our neighborhood is so quiet and friendly."

During his 10-year Air Force career, he has been stationed in England for three years and Maine for three years so he would love to remain in a warm-weather environment.

The Lakewood Ranch environment is warm in more than one way. He said it impresses him how people treat veterans.

"The majority of people who find out what I do, they are thankful and they express their support," he said. "I never feel I am forgotten.

What does he think about on Memorial Day?

"I think about all the people who have come before us," he said. "I'm not close to anyone who has died (in battle), but everyone has known someone in our line of work who has died. For me, No. 1 it's a way to honor (our fallen heroes). No. 2, it's a way to honor our veterans who came back, because they are a huge part of this. Those guys walking around the store wearing their veterans' hats ... Those are the guys I am thinking about."

He doesn't wear any military gear when he is out shopping in East County. He tries not to stand out. Like he said, he doesn't need people to be thinking about him on a day-to-day basis.

When he "is older," he might join those veterans who wear their gear in public.

Then, perhaps, he will like it when people think about what he did.

Would that work for him?

"Maybe just once in a while," he said.


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