Veterans

January 27, 2014

AF lays to rest an ‘American hero’

Pall Bearers from the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard fold the flag which draped the the casket of Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner during his internment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was the Air Force’s 20th Ace and and survived seven and a half years of captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a the Hanoi Hilton, during the Vietnam War.

Friends, family members, political leaders, former prisoners of war and service members paid their respects as an Air Force Ace was interred at Arlington National Cemetery Jan. 23.

Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner, a Korean War fighter ace and Vietnam prisoner of war, died Oct. 22, 2013 at Bridgewater Retirement Community in Bridgewater, Va., at the age of 88.

“America has lost one of its greatest heroes,” said Ross Perot, a close friend of Risner, during the service at the Memorial Chapel on Fort Myer, Va.

Though Risner’s life on earth has ended, his flying legacy lives on, Perot said, speaking about how Risner passed on his aviation wings for both Perot’s son and grandson to wear.

“Robbie approved that my son Ross could pin Robbie’s wings on my grandson,” said Perot.  “Can you imagine what that meant?”

Perot went on to share anecdotes from throughout Risner’s celebrated career, describing him as an “Oklahoma cowboy” who was hero and a friend, whose “love of God and love of country what was got him through seven and a half years as a prisoner of war.”

A bugler, in the distance, blows “Taps” as members of U.S. Air Force Honor Guard render honors to Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner during his internment ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was the Air Force’s 20th Ace and and survived seven and a half years of captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a the Hanoi Hilton, during the Vietnam War.

But for many other POWs, they credited their survival to Risner’s leadership.

“When the POWs came home from Vietnam, time and time again, I’d hear them say ‘if it hadn’t been for Robbie Risner, I wouldn’t have made it,’” Perot said, sharing a particular moment that defined Risner’s character.

While imprisoned in Vietnam, Risner gathered fellow POWs for a church service – something that was strictly prohibited.  While the troops were singing the song “Onward Christian Soldiers,” guards rushed in, taking Risner and two other leaders to what Perot referred to as “the box,” a place of solitary confinement.

When this occurred, “more than 40 POWs stood proudly, some of whom are here today, and sang a strictly forbidden song, the Star Spangled Banner,” Perot recalls. “How’s that for guts?”

Upon Risner’s return from the POW camp, Perot asked him, “‘Robbie, what was going on in your mind as they dragged you back to the box?’ He looked me in the eye. His eyes were twinkling. He said ‘Perot, with those guys singing the Star Spangled Banner, I was nine feet tall. I could have gone bear hunting with a stick!’”

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III (top left) and his wife, Betty, render honors during Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner’s funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was the Air Force’s 20th Ace and and survived seven and a half years of captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a the Hanoi Hilton, during the Vietnam War.

That moment and his words are reflected by a statue, exactly 9 feet high, that now stands at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Perot, a Navy veteran, closed with the note that “when you arrive at the pearly gates in Heaven, you will be warmly greeted by the United States Marines, guarding the gates.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III added to the humor of Perot’s remarks.

“I hope the Marines in Heaven know where the officer’s club is,” Welsh said.  “Because that’s where all the fighter pilots are going to be waiting for him.”

Welsh spoke to the audience about Risner, as someone Airmen should look up to.

“He’s one of the greatest American Airmen ever,” Welsh said. “It’s really just that simple.”

Welsh spoke about how Risner’s life and legend means something different to everyone in the audience.

A member of the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard stands vigil following Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner’s full honors military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was the Air Force’s 20th Ace and and survived seven and a half years of captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a the Hanoi Hilton, during the Vietnam War.

“He’s an icon, he’s a founding father … a member of that special generation who did fight in three wars, built an Air Force, and showed us exactly what courage looks like. An American hero.”

Members of the 336th Fighter Squadron, from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., his unit during the Korean War were also in attendance.

“He’s everything they want to be … a legendary fighter pilot,” Welsh said.

Addressing Risner’s fellow POWs in attendance, Welsh said, “I can’t imagine what he meant to you … I just can’t even imagine.

“What some of you have told me is that he was a leader and a role model at a time in your life when you needed one terribly … a man that somehow maintained his human dignity, his character and his moral strength,” Welsh said. “They say they saw his conviction that they could survive, would survive … and they believed, because he believed. Gentlemen, I’m so sorry that your brother is gone.”

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and his wife, Betty, give their condolences to Dorothy Risner during the funeral for her husband, Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner, at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was the Air Force’s 20th Ace and and survived seven and a half years of captivity as a Prisoner of War (POW) in Hoa Lo Prison, a.k.a the Hanoi Hilton, during the Vietnam War.

Welsh addressed other groups of people, Airmen past and present, individuals who were privileged to have known Risner over the years.

“To the people of this Nation, he was a noble idea … a comforting thought … the reassuring knowledge that there will always be those willing to answer the bugle’s call … to sacrifice more than they have any right to ask, to dare greatly … to risk everything, to fight and die on their behalf,” Welsh said, “He’s who all of them hope they would be.”

But most importantly, to his wife, Dorothy, he was “just the man I loved. That’s the real celebration today,” Welsh said, addressing the many family members in attendance. “Your husband, your dad, your grandfather, your brother … was a remarkable man.”

Risner is survived by Dorothy, six children and their spouses: Timothy Risner, Daniel and Page Risner, Dana and Gregory Duyka, Deborah and Michael Darrell, David and Pamela Risner, DeAnna and Timothy Parker, and 14 grandchildren. He leaves behind one sister and her spouse, Peggy and Norman Goldstein, and one sister-in-law Jean Risner.
 

Family members of Brig. Gen. Robinson “Robbie” Risner listen to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Ross Perot who spoke at Risner’s internment ceremony at the Memorial chapel on Fort Myer, Arlington, Va., before he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 23, 2014. Risner was one of the most celebrated pilots in Air Force history and survived seven and a half years of captivity in Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the Hanoi Hilton.




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


 
 

 

Headlines December 19, 2014

News: SpaceX’s attempt to land rocket on floating barge postponed - It’s set to be one of the most groundbreaking moments in humanity’s six decades of space exploration. Obama signs $1.1 trillion spending bill into law - President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion federal spending measure into law Dec. 16, officially ending any threat of a government...
 
 

News Briefs December 19, 2014

Trial set for ex-Navy engineer in military secrets case A former Navy civilian engineer is scheduled to stand trial next summer on charges of trying to steal aircraft carrier schematics. Media outlets report that 35-year-old Mostafa Awwad of Yorktown, Va., pleaded not guilty Dec. 17 to two counts of attempted exportation of defense articles and...
 
 
Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez

Army to launch cruise missile-detecting aerostat at Aberdeen Proving Ground

Army photograph by C. Todd Lopez The Army plans to launch an aerostat, part of the “Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor,” in late December 2014. The JLENS aerostat will be tethered to the...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan

AF delivers Iraqi F-16s for training in US

Air Force photograph by SrA. Jordan Castelan Iraqi air force captain Hama conducts preflight inspections while inside a new to service Iraqi F-16 Fighting Falcon Dec. 17, 2014, located at the nearby Tucson International Airport...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn

Short-notice: A new way to exercise

Air Force photograph by SSgt. Derek VanHorn Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, prepare for an aeromedical evacuation exercise on a KC-135 Stratotanker Dec. 5, 2014, at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The operation was executed in supp...
 
 
Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe

Japan, Australia to provide F-35 maintenance sites in Pacific region

Lockheed Martin photograph by Andy Wolfe An F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighter carrier variant prepares to launch from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 6, 2014. Japan and Australia will be sharing...
 




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>