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ARLINGTON, Va. — Pinning ceremonies are familiar rituals for servicemembers. Visible symbols of achievement and belonging, presented in public — promotions, branch assignments, awards and decoration, all involve this timeless ritual.

Now the Air Force is adding a whole new twist, this time for a group who is probably new to the honor: parents.

On Wednesday, Gen. John Jumper and Air Force Secretary James Roche kicked off a new morale program that will give airmen the opportunity to present up to two parents with a visible symbol of their child’s service: a one-inch square, dark-blue pin with the letter “P” embossed in white above Air Force wings.

“It’s not just the kids who go out there” and become airmen, Jumper said. “It’s also the parents, who brought these kids to us.”

Three sets of Air Force parents received their pins.

Honored were Airman 1st Class Daniel Christian of the 11 Security Forces Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base, Md., and his parents, Ramona and Ronald; Senior Airman Dominic Scali, an ordnance loader with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, and his parents, James and Jennifer Scali, of Chesapeake Beach, Md.; and Master Sgt. Phyllis Pierce and her sister, Senior Airman MéGan Jenkins, both medics with the 459th Aero Medical Evacuation Squadron with the Air Force Reserves at Andrews Air Force Base and their mother, Mildred Jenkins, of Mechanicsville, Md.

Roche also surprised Jumper with a pin, because all three of the four-star’s children are in the service — two daughters who are Air Force captains, and a rising college freshman daughter who is about to enter the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Virginia.

“I will wear this pin every day, whenever I go out of the house,” Mildred Jenkins told Stripes. “I am very proud of that pin.”

The Scali parents said they are also very pleased with their lapel ornaments.

“We already have yellow ribbons outside the house, and flags,” and even an “Air Force Mom” bumper sticker on the family car, Jennifer Scali said. “We’re just so proud of [Dominic].”

The “P” pin program began with the Air National Guard, where Brig. Gen. Edward Tonini, of the Kentucky Air Guard, was looking for a way to reward employers whose workers were leaving to support post-Sept. 11 Pentagon activities.

Tonini put together a statewide program called “Your Guardians of Freedom,” which included a special letter of recognition for employers or Guard members.

In December 2001, Tonini met Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska at a social function. One of the few World War II veterans left in Congress, Stevens asked Tonini to look into restarting the WWII “E for Excellence” program, which offered flags and pins to U.S. industry for exceptional war production efforts.

“We took the ‘E’ program and made it contemporary,” Tonini said, with the “E” on the pin now standing for “employer.”

The outreach effort has resulted in more than 61,000 employers receiving the pins, Tonini said.

The response to the “E” program was so overwhelming that in January 2002, Air Force leadership “asked us to come up with a way of getting active-duty into the [Your Guardians of Freedom] program,” Tonini said.

The result is the “P” pin and companion Web site, www.yourguardiansoffreedom.com, where airmen can register up to two parents. The “E” program information is on the same site.

The site “has gotten over 100,000 hits” since Monday, and 26,000 airmen had already registered their parents, he said.

Once the “P” program is up and running smoothly, Air Force officials are planning to extend it to spouses, with a special pin designed to represent their status, Tonini said.

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