Tag Archives: Veterans

Doolittle Raiders: real superheroes

By Staff Sgt. David Salanitri
Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Looking around the auditorium, legends fill the room. A Tuskegee Airman subtly takes his seat in the crowd, and Medal of Honor recipient George “Bud” Day arrives in his wheelchair. Hundreds have come to honor three men standing onstage – the Doolittle Raiders.

Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Lt. Col. Ed Saylor and Staff Sgt. David Thatcher, all three Doolittle Raiders, received much recognition during their last official reunion, April 17-20, 2013, on the Northwest Florida coast. 

During this handful of days, thousands of people, young and old, came out to show their support.

Three Doolittle Raiders

The Doolittle Raiders started with 80 Airmen in their unit, but 71 years later, only four remain, the youngest being in his early 90s.

These Raiders did something extraordinary April 18, 1942 – they delivered the first blow to Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Who won the World Series 71 years ago? For that matter, who won the Super Bowl a few years ago? Seventy-one years is a long time. Things that seem important in the moment, but are forgotten easily, rarely make for impactful moments to be written in the history books of our children and our children’s children. But an event whose impact can be lived today through a country’s freedom is something few can say they’ve been part of. 

The Doolittle Raiders can say this. All 80 of them. And America hasn’t forgotten it.

I can say this with confidence. For four days, the Raiders were treated like the heroes they are.  People lined walls by the hundreds, waiting in line up to two hours just to shake a Raider’s hand and to get an autograph. Hurlburt Field and Eglin Air Force Base Airmen filled auditoriums in hopes to ask these Raiders a question. 

The same question was asked throughout the week. What was going through your mind knowing you’re going to take off on a mission you may not return from?

Though the responses varied slightly, the message was consistent – their only thought the mission. The feeling of fright fell to the wayside, and they focused on their task at hand – send a message to Japan that we can hurt them at home.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Under the command of then Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, 80 men flew 16 aircraft off a carrier in the Pacific, dropping bombs on oil storage facilities, factory areas and military installations.

When news of the raid reached Americans, spirits rose through the roof. The raid was considered a huge psychological win.

Many things have changed during the past 71 years. Our freedom is not one of those things. 

Thatcher

Watching folks interact with the Raiders reminds me of how folks would react to meeting Superman. Children jump at the chance to take a picture with a Raider, prodding at Mom and Dad until they get their face time with one of the heroes. 

World War II veterans don their old but pristine uniforms. Cut in front of a lady who’s in line to get an autograph from a Raider, and your health is at risk – I learned this while maneuvering through the line to interview folks. Not good.

As an Airman, it’s heartwarming to see how those before me are treated. It hasn’t always been this way for those who have served. Pull aside any person wearing a “Vietnam” ball cap, and they’ll tell you that firsthand. However, first they will thank you for your service, since few have done the same to them.

Knowing that because of men like Cole, Saylor and Thatcher, I have an Air Force to serve in and freedom to enjoy … well to me … hero doesn’t do them justice. All 80 of them.

Aim high, Raiders. Fly, fight, win.

Watch the Doolittle Raiders reunion video on the Air Force’s BlueTube page on YouYube.

PHOTO: (top) From right, retired Lt. Col. Dick Cole, Staff Sgt. David Thatcher and Lt. Col. Ed Saylor, Doolittle Raiders, stand before the aircraft they used in World War II’s Doolittle Raid, April 20, 2013 at the Destin Airport. The men were attending their final reunion together, as they are only three of the four living Raiders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)
(bottom) David Thatcher, a staff sergeant during the Doolittle Raid, smiles with pride as he listens to a speaker talk about the Doolittle Raiders, April 20, 2013 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. This was the final dinner of the Doolittle Raiders’ last reunion. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. David Salanitri)

 

TBI and PTSD: ‘There is no shame in getting help’

by Tech. Sgt. Chuck Walker, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

As high profile cases have emerged about National Football League players and other athletes sustaining brain injuries, and as the nation has watched veterans return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder have become hot topics.

Allara2

Master Sgt. Jennifer Allara, an explosive ordnance disposal team leader at Dover Air Force Base, has experienced both.

In Sept. 2009, Allara’s EOD team at Provincial Reconstruction Farah, Afghanistan, was ambushed while out on patrol. A teammate, Staff Sgt. Bryan Berky, was killed by a sniper during the attack. For Allara, it was a wake-up call.

“We are trained to accept a certain amount of danger with our job,” she said. “I always thought in terms of me; what if something happens to me? What if we get blown up? I wasn’t thinking in terms of losing a team member in a turret.”

Upon her return from Afghanistan, Allara went to mental health and sought therapy when she began experiencing symptoms of TBI and PTSD. For her, it seemed to bring about more questions than answers.

Determined to heal, Allara recently began treatment at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md. She will undergo four weeks of analysis and leave the center with a care plan designed to meet her needs.

Allara hopes that her example will compel others to seek help if they are experiencing problems when they return from deployment.

“There is no shame in getting help,” she said. “There is no shame in recognizing what is going on with someone and being able to reach out and help. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your Airmen.”

For more on this story, click here.

Importance of ‘Flag Day’

 

 Airmen preform a flag raisingBy Retired Chief Master Sgt. Scott Hubbartt
51st Fighter Wing

Each year, Americans can enjoy four special days set aside specifically to honor our veterans and comrades in arms. Sadly, too many of us often overlook these opportunities to pay our respect and recognize the sacrifice and service of these individuals. These four days are intended to, in some small way, express the sentiments of a grateful nation. So what does it say of us when we forget, overlook, or simply brush aside the opportunity to honor the best among us?

I understand that today our lives are more complicated and busier than ever. We have so much going on in our lives these days; school getting out, visiting relatives, graduations, and any number of other competing priorities. I hope each of us were able to honor all our heroes last November on Veteran’s Day. But what about the other days?

It’s perhaps easy to seek and find forgiveness for not making it out to a veteran’s cemetery last Memorial Day Monday. After all, who of us is not grateful for a day off or for a chance to sleep in, fire up the grill, catch a new summer blockbuster, and recharge our batteries?

Beginning during the Civil War, and originally called Decoration Day, this special day, now called Memorial Day, was set aside to recognize the nation’s war dead by decorating their graves. In nearly every community in America you can find, in small and large cemeteries, the final resting place of our veterans. Additionally there are over 120 national cemeteries as well as at least 80 state and territorial veteran’s cemeteries. Somewhere near each of us rests a veteran hero who answered the call and paid the ultimate price. So, I ask you, how difficult is it really to pack up the kids and drive out to the local cemetery and pay our respect? Perhaps you did just that last Monday, and if you did I thank you. If not, do so soon. Our fallen brethren won’t mind a bit if you visit their marker any day of the year.

And what about Armed Forces Day? Who even knows what that is all about anyway? In 1950, President Harry S. Truman spearheaded efforts to set aside a single holiday when Americans could gather and collectively thank our military personnel for their service to the nation. Okay. I’ll grant that there is a generous outpouring of support and gratitude from most Americans that range from hanging yellow ribbons to bumper stickers and welcome home parades for returning troops. I understand.

Then there is that fourth special day, June 14th, set aside to honor another veteran – a faithful comrade who has accompanied each of us – every service member before us, to battlefields and stations in virtually every corner of the globe. For more than two centuries this veteran has always been there with us – always faithful and this vet is always ready for a parade. Our friend was there out at the cemetery last Monday when we were too busy. Not to fret, he was present and accounted for standing tall on Armed Forces Day as well. In fact our friend is always there, and in fact, often overlooked and taken for granted.

Of course I am speaking of Old Glory, our flag. Always faithful and decked out in full glorious parade dress uniform! Our friend has guided and comforted countless numbers of our comrades in arms through the best and the worst of times. No doubt each of us can recall an example of our friend being present which might evoke strong emotions in each of us – perhaps in a parade, at a funeral for a loved one, on the battlefield, on the tail of a plane, or over an embassy in a foreign land. Our friend is always there and loves to be on parade! So, I ask you, on June 14, on Flag Day, hoist Old Glory up, salute, and give our good friend the respect and recognition he deserves.

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Royval, left, Master Sgt. Vince Muskiet and Master Sgt. Jeff Thornsberry raise the U.S. flag Feb. 27, 2012, at the 162nd Fighter Wing at Tucson International Airport, Ariz., while Master Sgt. James Mulcahey salutes. Even if the national anthem isn’t played, Airmen must stop and salute if they see this ceremony occurring on base and drivers must pull over and stop until it’s completed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Gabe Johnson)

Air Force chaplain faces unique challenges

Chaplain (Capt.) Christian L. Williams

By Chaplain (Capt.) Christian LaPaul Williams

Arlington National Cemetery, Va

When I first heard of Arlington National Cemetery I immediately thought of honoring veterans and fallen comrades. I didn’t realize the true significance of my role in comforting their families as well. Also, I didn’t comprehend how challenging that would be.

Sure, as a chaplain I believed that I was capable of speaking with and providing comfort to the families. I’m certainly able to highlight the sacrifices of the veterans and active duty members for the just cause of freedom. I also know how to comfort the families with the knowledge that the Air Force is their extended family.

But one day I performed a service that challenged me in a way that I had never been challenged before.

I was assigned to a service that required me to give a committal for a stillborn baby boy, whose father was an active duty member. He and his wife had three other children who were 8 years old, 6 years old, and 18 months old.

I contacted the family to extend my condolences and see if there was any information that they might want me to share at the committal. The parents only had one request – to make the committal service kid friendly. I pondered how to fulfill this unique request.

I began to conduct research, to no avail. Then it dawned on me that I needed to go back to my foundation, which is my faith. I prayed and asked God to help me to minister to this family, particularly their children.

My faith in God, through my answered prayer, gave me what I needed to minister to this family. I kneeled down in front of the children at the service, and asked them to tell me their favorite character. The oldest told me “a princess.” The middle child said “Star Wars.” The youngest pointed to an iPhone with a picture of Elmo on the screen and said “Elmo.”

The two oldest children, at my urging, then gave me more specific names of their heroes as it relates to these characters.

Afterwards, I pointed to the white marble stones surrounding the gravesite and explained that the stones represented our nation’s heroes.

I told them we were there on that day to honor another hero. I asked them if they knew to whom I was referring and the 8 year old, with tears rolling down her red cheeks, said “my brother.” I agreed with her, and told them that heroes always showed up when they were needed, and that their brother was watching over them.

With my voice cracking and full of emotion I said that their brother will always remain in their hearts and whenever they needed him – their hero – would always show up. The family and I then grabbed hands and prayed as I gave the final committal of their stillborn child.

This ministry opportunity has changed my life forever. Now, I fully understand my mission. I am humbled and proud to serve on the sacred grounds of Arlington National Cemetery.

Photo: Chaplain (Capt.) Christian L. Williams is one of the chaplains representing the military services responsible for honoring those who are laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Another major role is to comfort and assist the families of those service members buried at the nation’s largest national cemetery. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ruano)

“Belle:” An ageless beauty

By Tech. Sgt. Nick Kurtz
Defense Media Activity

Master Sgt J.T. Lock, Senior Airman Zach Lopez and I travelled to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, to shoot some TV news stories at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. This piece is set in the restoration backshop, where a group made up almost entirely of volunteers is restoring what is perhaps the most famous plane in Air Force history.

This was an amazing trip and a fantastic learning experience for all of us. We wanted to try a different style of storytelling than we were used to, drawing inspiration from many of the wonderful videos we’ve seen on Vimeo. Two videos in particular that really inspired me for this piece were Coffer (by Lost & Found Films) and Shinya Kimura @ Chabott Engineering (by Henrik Hansen). Also, pretty much everything by the folks at California is a Place.

I hope you enjoy this piece, and I hope it sparks an interest for you in military history. I know working on it did for me. If you’d like to visit the Air Force Museum, you can take a virtual tour online at nationalmuseum.af.mil/virtualtour/index.asp

 

Video: As a retired aircraft mechanic, Roger has always loved airplanes. But he’s never met one like her. She’s a timeless symbol of World War II, and she’s come to him for help. She’s seen better days, and desperately needs his tender hands and passionate heart to help restore her to her former glory. This is the story of Roger Brigner, his love affair with “Belle,” and the lasting legacy their relationship will leave behind.