“Service Before Self:” Luke Airman Honored by Tempe Chamber Military Affairs Committee

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LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – In an emotional February 14 ceremony honoring the legacy of a former member of the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Master Sgt. Danielle Graziani reflected on the recognition that she doesn’t normally seek after she was awarded the annual Graydon Williams Award.

“I feel honored and I’m humbled because I don’t look for that recognition,” Graziani said. “I just do what’s asked. I feel really blessed and surprised.”

The Graydon Wiliams Award is given annually to an airman of the 944th Fighter Wing and is presented by the Tempe Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee. The award was named after Tech. Sgt. Williams, who was an Air Reserve technician for the fighter wing and served in the Air Force for over 20 years.

Graziani, a low observable section chief, was noted for her quiet and dedicated commitment to service by Ed Logan, the Military Affairs Committee chairman and an Air Force veteran.

“[Master Sgt. Graziani] is highly respected and well-liked by her squadron. We feel honored to know her and honor her and raise the visibility of the 944th reserve fighter wing which is expanding and she’s part of it,” Logan said.

Ed Logan presents Master Sgt. Danielle Graziani with the Graydon Williams Award.

Master Sgt. Graziani entered the Air Force wanting something that she could call her own accomplishment. Born and raised in Arizona to a music and arts-oriented family, she enlisted at 21 and entered Air Force basic training in Lackland Air Force Base San Antonio. From there, she was stationed in different posts in Pensacola, Fla., Langley, Va. and Delaware before returning to Arizona.

Master Sgt. Danielle Graziani, 944th Maintenance Squadron low observable section chief, poses for a photo in front of an F-35, Feb. 21. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder)
Master Sgt. Danielle Graziani, 944th Maintenance Squadron low observable section chief, poses for a photo in front of an F-35, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Lausanne Kinder)

The fighter wing commander, Col. Brian Cook, described the role of the low observable technician and how Graziani plays a part leading the repair efforts on base.

Low observable aircraft refers to planes that the US military uses that have low-to-invisible radar signatures. A low observable aircraft structural technician installs and maintains the metals used to create the stealth feature of the aircraft, according to the US Air Force’s website.

 “Any time one of them gets even scratched, it affects the radar visibility or radar cross-section,” Cook said. “There is a major process that they have to do to replace the low observable coating and [Graziani] is actually running the shop that takes care of that for the F35s here on base. It’s very vital.”

Cook praised the master sergeant for her dedication and involvement with the fighter wing, both in her duties leading the low observable repair shop as well as her involvement away from work. Graziani is the one who does much of the planning and organizing for events with her team and is mostly found behind the scenes.

“She’s always in the background, never at the forefront, which is amazing,” said Cook. “She’s that quiet warrior; that service-before-self person that’s always going above and beyond. To be able to recognize her in the spirit of Graydon Williams was a big moment for us.”

Col. Brian Cook addresses the audience.

To add a personal connection to the ceremony, Graydon Williams’ sister Alma Shappell traveled from rural Geronimo, Okla. to see the award be presented for the fourth time. Shappell was very pleased that Graziani was the award recipient and expressed appreciation for William’s continued legacy.

“I think it’s awesome that they can remember him and give this award in his memory, Shappell said. “I just feel that he’s looking down on us each year when they give this award and it’s really a privilege to be here.”

Master Sgt. Graziani recieves an embrace from Alma Shappell.

The Tempe Chamber Military Affairs Committee meets monthly to honor local service members and provide scholarships for local ROTC students. For more information regarding the committee, contact Natalie Cole, membership coordinator, at nataliecole@tempechamber.org.