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.


 
 

 

Online vigilance helps reduce risk

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. — I received at least five emails last week warning me to secure my social media settings and be aware of what I post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Why? Do you not like to see what I had for dinner last night? Too many #selfies? Are photos of my dog eating...
 
 

Nurturing relationships and a culture of caring

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — When life gets challenging, stressors can build and conflicts can escalate, sometimes leading to abuse. Preventing domestic abuse is fundamental to basic relationship maintenance. Partners in healthy relationships work together every day to nurture their relationship, taking care to address issues and concerns when they occur. Healthy relationships should...
 
 

Taming ‘tyranny of urgent’

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. — Many Airmen lead incredibly busy lives, full of unfinished tasks that we often wish we had more hours in the day to fit it all in, and in our professional lives, budgets remain tight, the Air Force is shrinking, and we are challenged to do more with less. Yet...
 

 

99th CONS delivers millions in FY 14

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — The 99th Contracting Squadron closed out a banner year on Sept. 30 for the Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases, and the Nevada Test and Training Range executing $175 million in the base central acquisition and contract performance management program in fiscal year 2014.   Working with a broad variety of...
 
 

Pregnant with cancer: A story of survival, resilience

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — On April 16, 2007, I got a call no expecting mother would dream of receiving. “We got the results from your biopsy and it came back malignant.” Did the doctor just say I had cancer? I first discovered the lump during Christmas break. It was so small that it was barely...
 
 

Physician Assistants Week 2014: Celebrating 47 years of compassion, excellence

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — You’ve seen us in your family’s doctor’s office, in your local emergency room, and perhaps even in the operating room. When that smiling medical provider introduces themselves as a physician assistant, or PA, who and what exactly are you meeting?  The PA is a nationally certified, state-licensed medical professional that traces...
 




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