September 17, 2010 9:58:00 AM
As we pause today in honor of POW/MIA Remembrance Day, I would like to focus your thoughts on this ostentatious gathering.
Why? Why do we gather to remember our former Prisoners of War and those still unaccounted for, our Missing in Action? The answer is two-fold. We gather to honor those former POWs from our wars for the service to their nation, to keep the hope for those still standing vigilant for a loved one to return and to help our nation remember.
Reflecting on former Vietnam POWs, I cannot help but to ponder on our Air Force core values, specifically Service Before Self. The speaker for Columbus Air Force Base''s ceremony is retired Lt. Col. "Gene" Smith, who was a POW for nearly five and a half years after being shot down while flying his F-105 on Oct. 25, 1967.
In our modern era, I often hear Service Before Self referred to frequently when you are about to receive a "good deal" from the Air Force or you will be pulling extra long duty periods. I cannot help but to think about Col. Smith sitting in solitary confinement for over five years...never giving up hope in his Air Force, his country or his God. Character, yep. Personal courage, yes. Service Before Self, absolutely!
We are a flying training wing; part of our mission statement says it; we produce pilots. It may be part of your nature to evaluate the Missing Man Formation as it puts the ending punctuation point on the ceremony. We may be judging the position of No. 2 and No. 4 aircraft, were they too loose or out of position? How was the timing of the No. 3 wingman''s pull up and did the formation flyover exactly on time?
While all these thoughts are natural and inherent in what many do here for a living, I challenge you to focus on that hole in the formation that was once occupied by the No. 3 aircraft. A vacant wingman, much like our POWs and MIAs that is no longer there, but we still honor their place and position in the formation by leaving the space, the placeholder. We stand silently hoping for the wingman''s formation rejoin, their return with honor. Like today''s wingman philosophy, we look after each other, even though the wingman is absent, they are not forgotten.
Secondly, we must gather to show the rest of America, and the world, we care. We must continue as a Service to honor our traditions like our Air Force Birthday, Veterans Day, Memorial Day and other patriotic holidays. The results are simple: if we stop caring and celebrating, so will America. Why should America honor those who we no longer have the time to honor?
For sake our future we must continue to honor our past.
Sonic Johnson, Columbus Air Force Base
Johnson directs public affairs for the 14th Flying Training Wing.