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Paul W. Airey NCO Academy honors enlisted USAF heroes

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Compton, Paul W. Airey NCO Academy director of education, prepares to lead a tour of the academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. Each classroom throughout the academy is named after  enlisted Airmen  who were hand-picked by NCO Academy classes for their unwavering heroism and courage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Compton, Paul W. Airey NCO Academy director of education, prepares to lead a tour of the academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. Each classroom throughout the academy is named after enlisted Airmen who were hand-picked by NCO Academy classes for their unwavering heroism and courage. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

Chief Master Sgt. Darnell Burton, NCO Academy commandant, and academy instructors render a salute to incoming honorees of the Legacy of Valor event at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. As classes attended the academy, the each picked through hundreds of enlisted Airmen and identified 14 of the most extraordinary to represent each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Darnell Burton, NCO Academy commandant, and academy instructors render a salute to incoming honorees of the Legacy of Valor event at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. As classes attend the academy, they each pick through hundreds of enlisted Airmen and identify 14 of the most extraordinary to represent each flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

Honorees of the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy’s Legacy of Valor event gather in front of the academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. During the event, honorees toured the NCO Academy and were given a chance to see the rooms named after them or their loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen/Released)

Honorees of the Paul W. Airey NCO Academy’s Legacy of Valor event gather in front of the academy at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., Dec. 13, 2016. During the event, honorees toured the NCO Academy and were given a chance to see the rooms named after them or their loved ones. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Dustin Mullen)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

The Paul W. Airey NCO Academy hosted a Legacy of Valor ceremony to honor 15 enlisted heroes here Dec. 13.

Since 2014, each NCO Academy class has picked through hundreds of enlisted Airmen and identified 15 of the most extraordinary to represent each flight.

“This event is about more than just remembering our heroes; it’s about spending time with them and celebrating their valor,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darnell Burton, Paul W. Airey NCO Academy commandant. “This is also an opportunity for their families to come together, let us recognize them and see how we honor their loved one and their name.”

For those honorees who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the NCO Academy invited family members and squadron coworkers, giving them the opportunity to see how the academy tells of their loved ones legacy.

“To be able to host this event and honor these 15 heroes and their families is one of the most important things that I have done in my life,” said Master Sgt. Khyashalise Powell, NCO Academy director of operations. “The honorees and their families were so humbled and honored to even be asked to attend the Legacy of Valor. Taking a day to honor and thank them is not enough, but it's the least we can do.”

Every classroom throughout the academy is named after an Airman, ensuring their acts of greatness will live on in each NCO that comes through.

“It’s very overwhelming, and there are all kinds of emotions involved,” said Senior Master Sgt. Angela Blue, 633rd Civil Engineer Squadron, Joint Base Langely-Eustis, Virgina, first sergeant and Legacy of Valor honoree. “People really, really want to know your story and want talk to you, it’s a very humbling experience.”

Those who were able to attend the event toured the academy and spent time in the rooms dedicated to them or their family member.

“I feel humbled to be walking in the presence of heroes,” said retired Capt. William Robinson, an honoree of the event. “Freedom is not free, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today. It’s humbling just to have the opportunity to simply [whisper] under your breath ‘thank you’ as you walk by [the room dedicated to them]. Always remember, that without veterans, there would be no United States of America.”

After the academy visit, the recipients toured the base. The event culminated with a banquet in their honor.

“It’s rare to have a formal event like this that isn’t a graduation, Air Force ball or promotion ceremony,” Burton said. “We are getting dressed up simply to celebrate them. All of these heroes know what it truly means to be a wingman, a leader and a warrior, and were chosen for their bravery and resiliency."