We can all keep serving

“Neither of my parents graduated from high school, so our family placed a large emphasis on education and service. My uncle was a Naval aircrew member who was lost in the Pacific theater during World War II. My father was an Army infantryman with the 78th Division and walked across Europe in that same war. My family believed that service to country was very important. I determined in the 7th grade that I was going to go to West Point. When I didn’t receive a Congressional appointment to West Point, my football coach helped me get into the Virginia Military Institute. I went there from 1963 until 1965 when VMI submitted my name to the Air Force Academy as an Honor Military School nominee. The Academy accepted me and I attended USAFA from 1965 until my commissioning in 1969.  

“I went to pilot training at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Georgia. Our graduating class had only one fighter in our selection block and that went to the number one graduate. I chose to fly the C-130 because I knew it was the fastest way to get to Vietnam. There was a war on, and I wanted to go. I was eventually assigned to AC-130 Gunships at Ubon, Thailand. My tour coincided with the draw down in South East Asia and Secretary Kissinger was negotiating the peace terms at that time. I remember one evening on the runway ready to take off for a mission and having to taxi back to the revetments because we were told that things were happening back in Washington. It was very frustrating; all we wanted to do was our job and help the troops on the ground.

“I served in the Air Force for 24 years and got to travel extensively and see the rest of the world. I had many great assignments – enjoyed the many hours of flying, was in a command billet, served in AF Legislative Liaison, was a Presidential Advance Agent, served on the Air Staff, and served as Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee for the first Clinton inauguration. All of these experiences confirmed my belief that the USA is the best country on the face of this earth.  

“An interesting story was one that occurred when I was Secretary Kissinger’s Military Aide during the first Reagan inaugural. We were traveling in a car one evening and he asked me what had been the most frustrating thing about being over in South East Asia. I told him about being on the runway and having to abort our mission and that it was a Washington decision. He laughed and said, ‘That was you?’ and I looked back at him incredulously and said, ‘Sir, that was YOU?!’ He is a very intelligent man with a great sense of humor and an unbelievable way of understanding people. He taught me that we don’t have all of the answers, and most importantly, the United States cannot impose our morals and ethics on cultures that do not understand them and have no interest in living under the same limitations and acquired freedoms. He also strengthened something my father always told me, and that was, ‘I never learned anything while I was talking.’

“I was lucky to fly C-130s all over the world, and doing really important work. But I’m not special. Like my football coach and coach Belichick say: ‘Do your job.’ And I did. I have friends in Texas, California, Maine, and Florida – all over the country. And whether it’s been 1 day or 10 years, when we get together it feels like the separation has only been seconds.    

“I miss the people in the Air Force, and of course, the flying. Flying with those whom I respected the most is so memorable. But now I spend time volunteering and serving on the Board of Directors of the Warrior Foundation/Freedom Station, an organization totally dedicated to our soldiers who are severely wounded and suffer from conditions such as PTSD. The Warrior Foundation is a great organization that represented the US Navy and won the 2015 Spirit of Hope Award, named after the entertainer, Bob Hope. Every dollar we receive goes right back to these incredible men and women who need it. We are an all-volunteer organization where no volunteer accepts reimbursement. The founder, Ms. Sandy Lehmkuhler, is a Navy wife who started the efforts by asking for enough money to buy five electric shavers for returning veterans. It is now an organization with more than $4 million in assets. Giving back to those veterans… well it’s been the most enriching and rewarding experience of my life. Here I sit with no physical deformities and they have wounds they’ll have to work through for the rest of their lives. Serving our country in the United States Air Force is one of my proudest achievements, but we can all keep serving, long after we hang up the uniform.”

To learn more about the Warrior Foundation, please visit www.warriorfoundation.org


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