With this past weekend’s Veterans Day, a pair of subjects weighed on my mind, and I wondered if such varied subjects could come together to make people think about our differences of opinions today.
Veterans Day is the day set aside for honoring all our current and past military men and women, and the contributions and sacrifices they have made for us — a nation of citizens who live or have lived under their protection.
As an Air Force veteran, over the last few months I have been enjoying the Air Force Academy’s football team and their record — as of this writing they are undefeated in this year’s college football season. As the season has continued, I became aware of rumblings that a team event was getting some pushback.
The team was planning a tribute to past military heroes, and media and activists were not looking favorably on the event because they felt a line was about to be crossed that was better left uncrossed.
Flash back to 1942, to a nation dealt a brutal blow at Pearl Harbor. In the following months, the imperial armies of Japan were pretty much doing as they pleased in the Pacific with their aggression upon other nations.
America was being constantly bombarded by enemy actions and setbacks but also by the newspapers of the day. On the street corners of America, the press was giving citizens a constant diet of bad news; we needed something to lift people’s hopes.
Many of you know the story of the Doolittle Raiders and their raid on Tokyo, a one-way mission to give notice to Japan. We were coming — and one day the light damage done by a handful of B-25 bombers would be just the first step in bringing down an empire seeking domination of the entire Pacific region and beyond.
The courage of the American Airmen who were asked to volunteer, not ordered, to fly a very dangerous mission with little effect or chance of survival, is extraordinary. They knew the real mission was to bring hope to a nation in desperate need of some battlefield good news. If the sacrifice of their lives would do that, they would be willing to take the chance.
The history books have well documented that event and made the Doolittle Raiders a point of pride for generations including we baby boomers, who looked up to them as the superheroes of the day. For me and my friends nothing was more heroic than those planes launched from an aircraft carrier and the five-man crews that made up the 16-plane “tip of the sword” that flew into history.
Today, when people look at past events and find ways to criticize and call such events in our history insensitive and cruel, they are looking to diminish the missions and actions of past generations to push a narrative that downplays our nation’s history.
Looking back and seeing the world standards we have today, most people have no clue what it was like to wake up in America on Dec. 8, 1941 (following the attack), and live until August of 1945, when the world nightmare came to an end.
Sometime in the not-too-distant past, the Air Force Academy looked to honor the Doolittle Raiders with a commemorative uniform to honor the actions of the Doolittle Raiders that for generations brought pride to every Airman that put on an Air Force uniform.
But pushback came, and from what I can tell the commemoration was up in the air for a while as the naysayers of that history started a pretty vocal online campaign. Their following was working overtime to get the legacy uniforms and message removed from the football field.
What pride I felt a couple weeks ago when the Air Force took the field to play Navy and those amazing uniforms that on the backs of the jerseys did not have the team or players names, it just simply said “Doolittle Raiders.” In today’s world it’s nice to see tradition win out over the drama that people create. Today’s patriots will pay respect and ensure those heroic deeds of the past will not be forgotten by those who wear the uniform and serve and lead our country.
With Veterans Day coming up, this story — perhaps to me more than any other — shows what’s so wrong in so many ways about our nation, but also what is so right when it comes to honoring our veterans. The football players from the Air Force Academy showed us that sometimes what’s not popular with one group should not diminish how they choose to recognize the generations that came before. The freedoms we enjoy today need not go unrecognized by censoring the history to fit a current world understanding of past events.
I, for one, salute the Doolittle Raiders and the Air Force Academy Falcons, two winning teams that will always have my respect for not backing down when our nation was looking for heroes to make a difference. I’m proud to be an Air Force veteran from a different era and seeing the amazing men and women who will fill our shoes and carry on our legacy.
We remember and salute all the veterans of all the services on this up-and-coming Veterans Day, and for now I will carry on and remember how we are so blessed to live in the “home of the brave.”
Until next time, Bob out …