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Veteran Spotlight: Air Force Staff Sgt. Cory Ahonen
By Wayne Soares, Special to iBerkshires
04:46PM / Sunday, May 19, 2024
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EASTON, Mass. — Cory Ahonen, chief engagement officer for the state's Executive Office of Veterans Services, served his country in the Air Force from 2008 to 2014 as a staff sergeant. 
He grew up in Sandwich, graduated from Sandwich High School and did his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. 
"I joined to get out of a dead-end path," he said. "It was my second time in my life on a plane. I was excited and grateful to be here. I knew I needed to make the most of this opportunity. This was my big move, to make something of myself."
His first assignment would take him to F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he performed nuclear security duty. 
"We were told that we were the front line of security for the country. We had giant missiles in the ground, dispersed among farmland," Ahonen said. "I worked 12-hour shifts for our area of responsibility. They motivated us to feel like this was extremely important.
"It wasn't most exciting duty but it's where I got my discipline and where highest standards are held."
In 2010, he was assigned to Kunsan AFB in South Korea, where his mission was security and law enforcement and he achieved the rank of staff sergeant. 
"Felt nothing but the greatest respect for the South Korean people," he said.
I asked him about the holidays. "We would get together for the Thanksgiving and Christmas," Ahonen said. "Our lieutenant or commander would have all the young guys over ... I was single, sometimes we ate in the barracks, other times, I pulled duty and worked. ... It was just another day." 
From Kunsan, he would be assigned to Andersen AFB in Guam, describing the food as amazing and the island as "beautiful, beautiful."
"It was amazing — the tropical weather — I was there for three years," he said. 
He continued his work in security there, accompanying medium and high-risk transport and containment of military prisoners on a lot of flights. 
"It was cool and interesting. The biggest lesson I learned — people can make mistakes and turn their life around," he said. "They just made a bad decision." 
When he spoke of mentorship he paid a respectful comment: "I learned a great deal from every one of my leaders." 
He continued, "the Air Force saved my life. I found my ability to succeed and apply myself and learned work-ethic and principles through my military service. These are the things that are still with me today."
When asked what it meant to be a veteran, he said this: "I take great pride in the fact that I served and pride in the fact that I'm now helping veterans find their way — doing what others did for me."
He went back to school after leaving the Air Force, earning a master's degree in public administration, and was veterans services officer in Easton before joining the Executive Office of Veterans Services. He and his wife, Deanna, have two children.
Staff Sgt. Cory Ahonen, thank you for your service to our great country.
Wayne Soares is the host of the popular new veterans cooking show, "The Mess Hall" that airs Saturdays on NBC's NECN at 9:30 a.m. He also entertains our troops around the globe and is the host and producer of the Vietnam veterans documentary "Silent Dignity – The Chapter That Never Ends." He can be reached at


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