We should all be proud of our legacy

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- I have written several articles for the Vance Web site and the Scoop newspaper, but the time has come to close this chapter of my career. 

My family and I will continue to serve the U.S. Air Force in the European Command at Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany. 

I would like to thank all of my fans and the folks that inspired me as I was writing. OK -- I don't have any fans. I would also like to apologize to anyone I have offended with my politically incorrect, direct to the point style of penmanship. 

Actually, I'm not really sorry about that either. One thing I have learned at Vance is that life is too short to worry about tap-dancing or couching things in terms that don't offend anybody. 

Actually, quite the opposite is true. We must all challenge each other, and as iron sharpens iron, we will make each other better Airmen and leaders in the process. 

Today I want to talk about a guy that had the courage of his convictions. His name was Capt. Quentin Aanenson, a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot during World War II in the Army Air Corp. 

Quentin was a warrior. He was also colorblind. After getting turned down by the Army so many times he had actually memorized the test and was able to pass. In 1943 he was called up for flight training. His story was captured in a 1993 Public Broadcasting Service documentary, "A Fighter Pilot's Story." It's the story of a great American doing his duty. 

He flew 75 combat missions over some of the most contested airspace of the war. More than 70 percent of his unit, the 366th Fighter Group, was killed in action. 

While Lt. Col. Leon R. Vance, Vance AFB's name sake, led his Bomb Group over Wimereux, France, prior to the Normandy invasions of D-Day, Captain Aanenson was pulverizing Nazi positions with his eight, .50-caliber machine guns in his Thunderbolt. 

Out of his 75 combat missions, 20 times he returned or crashed with severe damage to his airplane. He still took to the air. He recounts one mission as they were attacking retreating Germans. 

"I was the third plane in the attack, and when I pulled in on the target a terrible sight met my eyes. Men were desperately trying to get off the barge and into the water, where large numbers of men were already fighting to make it to shore. 

"My eight .50-caliber machine guns fired 100 rounds a second into this hell. As the last P-47 pulled off the target, the first plane was making his second strafing pass and the deadly process continued. 

"In about three passes we had used all our ammunition so we pulled up and circled this caldron of death. We were traumatized, but there had been no other option. If we had let them go we knew that they would be killing American boys in a couple of days." 

Captain Aanenson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart and Air Medal with nine oak leaf clusters. We owe our very freedom to men and women like Quentin Aanenson. 

After the war he went into the insurance industry so he could help people secure their future and make a positive impact and accomplish something for the men who had lost their lives. Quentin's legacy lives today as he teaches us to be persistent, think critically, move out with your integrity intact and build your legacy 

In conclusion I want to say that my tour at Vance has been the most rewarding in my career. Since I have been in the 32nd FTS we have produced over 700 new pilots for the Air Force and Navy -- men and women of character that share in Quentin Aanenson's dream of a better tomorrow. 

Everyone on this base had a part in that and we should all be proud of our legacy. I will miss you all -- thank you for your service. 

Auf Wiedersehen.