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.


 
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler

Sun sets on Red Flag 14-3

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Thomas Spangler The sun sets behind a row of F-16 FightingFalcons during Red Flag 14-3, July 16 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Red Flag provides a series of intense air-to-air combat sce...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar

Lessons learned: Deployment exercise gives new insight

U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar Master Sgt. Nicholas Alessi, New Horizons engineer 820th RED HORSE Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., lays block at the Edward P. Yorke school construction site April 9...
 
 
CMSAF1

CMSAF Cody visits Nellis Airmen

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, James A. Cody speaks to 99th Civil Engineer Squadron Airmen about surveying equipment July 17, during a visit to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Cody visited various units to experience first-han...
 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kiuta B. Ika

Dempsey takes reins of NTTR

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kiuta B. Ika Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria, U.S. Air Force Warfare Center commander, passes the Nevada Test and Training Range guidon to the new NTTR commander, Col. Thomas E. Dempsey III, during a c...
 
 
1000-hours

Pilot reaches milestone, achieves 1000 flight hours

Maj. Matt Allen, a 706th Reserve Squadron full-time air reserve technician who is assigned to the 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron as an F-22 test director, stands by an F-22 Raptor before flight July 21, at Nellis Air Force B...
 
 
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis

Fuels management flight takes on Red Flag 14-3 full force

U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rachel Loftis Senior Airman Daniel Millard, 419th Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels journeyman, prepares to fuel an aircraft participating in Red Flag 14-3, July 22, at Nellis Air Force...
 




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