A reminder of our collective heritage

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
I often get caught up in the here and now of the Air Force. Performance reports must be written, operating instructions drafted and new Airmen need constant direction. Daily operations never stop, whether we need a break or not. I learned something new last week, and it was an important reminder of something that I've neglected for some time now.

It was 1965 when U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jimmy Tardie passed away in a tragic KC-135 Stratotanker refueler accident at Loring Air Force Base, Maine.

I had the opportunity to take a break from my daily routine to take pictures for his family, who visited the boom operator memorial in Wings of Freedom Park.

They drove from Louisiana to see the memorial that their grandfather's name is written upon. They never had the chance to meet him, but his legacy still lives through them and his name is forever etched in stone as a tribute to those who have given their lives in service to their country.

As I listened to the stories they told of him, I couldn't help but feel proud to have his history as part of my own. They spoke so passionately about his accomplishments, as if he had lived to share his tales of the Korean War and flying in the KC-135 himself.

They never knew their grandfather, nevertheless they regarded him as a hero.

As Airmen, we should have the same curious enthusiasm of our history as the Tardie family. Their grandfather's story is just one of millions about those who have served before us. From our country's ballooning days to the development of the most advanced aerial weapon systems known to man, Airmen have been there every step of the way.

If you are an Airman, you have no doubt recited the Airman's Creed. The second stanza of our creed states, "I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor." How can we be faithful to our heritage if we do not take the time to know what our heritage is?

It is easy to lose ourselves in the present and forget that we all have a common history. I encourage you to take the time to learn about our collective heritage as Airmen and remember that the Airmen who came before us accomplished many great things and forged the way for the mission we perform today.

There are a number of resources available like the Air Force Chief of Staff Reading List, where there are books, films, art and much more that can help us learn more about where we came from. By understanding where we were, I believe we can better perform today and prepare for tomorrow's challenges.