Commentary

September 13, 2013

Airmen learn about country, commitment, honor at VFW meeting

Tags:
Staff Sgt. N.B.
432nd Wing Public Affairs

Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. French, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, recounts a time in his career when he was wounded, during an interview at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Aug. 20. His most serious injury was during his time in Vietnam when he was struck by ground fire that split his helmet down the center. He received nine stitches to his head and returned to flying operations the following day. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

LAS VEGAS — As a photojournalist, my job is to tell the Air Force story to the world, but sometimes telling it to a smaller crowd is more effective and meaningful.

Recently, I had the privilege to meet some of the Air Force’s behind-the-scenes heroes,; their accomplishments often forgotten over time but not any less important or extraordinary than the accomplishments of Airmen today.

On a street corner in Las Vegas, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard E. French relaxes with his wife and other retirees at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars center. He shares a special connection with the strangers around him, most of whom are current or former service members.

French was born in December 1929 in Newberg, Ore. He entered the Air Force in March 1952 and ultimately served more than 27 years on active duty as a fighter pilot.

During his career, he flew 683 combat sorties during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and was hand selected to destroy the Thanh Hoa Bridge during Operation Linebacker I. I learned later this bridge was important because it had survived 873 sorties and cost the U.S. 11 aircraft.

As I sat there and listened to his enthusiasm and passion for the stories he shared, I realized these interactions are a necessary part of our Air Force heritage. After all, if we don’t take the time to remember the places we have been, we’ll surely be doomed in the places we will go.

French was wounded twice during his career. He recalls his most serious injury was during his time in Vietnam when he was struck by ground fire that split his helmet down the center, glancing off his head. He received nine stitches and returned to flying operations the following day. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

French received more than 50 decorations throughout his career including the Silver Star Medal, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 23 Air Medals.

He retired in 1974 and said, “I am truly honored to have had this opportunity, to know that the people I worked with and know that they appreciated the things that I did. It makes this all worth it, and I thank the Air Force for allowing me the opportunities to do the things that I did.”

As he continued on with his many accomplishments and back stories, I paused to look around the room.

I saw the faces of Airmen and NCOs alike lit with curiosity and amazement that one person was able to accomplish so much.

His wife later thanked us for letting him tell his story to someone who could truly appreciate and understand them as they were. I was honored to have had this opportunity.

I was able to walk away from the experience with a deeper sense of country, commitment and honor for myself, my family and the USAF.

My advice to any service member, or person for that matter, is you never know what you might learn until you ask. Value those who came before you because when they go their experiences go with them.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Construction to begin on Tyndall Avenue

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Base personnel should expect lane closures along Tyndall Avenue beginning Jan. 30 or the week of Feb. 2 until September of this year to allow for improvement of the base’s water main infrastructure. The $750,000 project, overseen by the 99th Civil Engineer Squadron, will tie in remaining aircraft hangars,...
 
 
Page-One

Red Flag launches into 2015

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika Two maintainers assigned to the 748th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, work on the wing of an F-15 Eagle during Red Flag 15-1 at Nellis Air Forc...
 
 

On war, football: Sun Tzu, Bill Belichick conversation

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Sun Tzu, the legendary Chinese military general, lived over two thousand years ago. He’s best known for his famous book “The Art of War” — a masterpiece that endures today as a crafty reference guide, applicable not only to war fighting, but also many other pursuits. If “The Art...
 

 
red-horse

NHP honors RED HORSE Airmen for bravery

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Thomas Spangler Capt. Thom Jackson (left), Nevada Highway Patrol state trooper, speaks to the 820th RED HORSE at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 23. Jackson attended the ceremony to honor...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika

AFJO realigns under USAFWC

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Siuta B. Ika Brig. Gen. Stephen Whiting, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center vice commander, passes the Air Force Joint Test Program Office’s new guidon to Col. David Lünger, AFJO commander, afte...
 
 
JROTC2

JROTC cadets rappel with 58th RQS during Nellis AFB tour

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle Members of the 58th Rescue Squadron secure the rappelling line for Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets as they descend the rappelling tower at Nellis Air Forc...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin