Virtue of honor held as greatest military accomplishment

  • Published
  • By Lt Col Leonard Litton
  • 25th Flying Training Squadron
It is once again an honor to have the opportunity to address the outstanding men and women of Vance Air Force Base.
I am continually amazed at the outstanding manner in which Airmen do their job, the high quality military aviators we produce, and how safely Team Vance accomplishes a very complicated mission.
However, I am not going to talk about "safety" this time, especially since I now sit in the seat of squadron commander. What I am going to talk about this time is one word, "honor."
I recently held an "off-site" strategic planning conference with my squadron leaders. We took an entire day to plan the path in which we would lead the 25th Flying Training Squadron for the rest of the year. We refined our mission statement, adopted a vision statement, decided on a motto and identified goals, objectives and the metrics with which to measure them. It was a productive and sometimes "intense" day as people expressed varying opinions in a sometimes "spirited" manner. (I didn't know F-16 pilots could be referred to by those adjectives!) After lunch we wrapped up the loose ends and headed to the base auditorium for a little "fun." We watched the movie "Men of Honor" with Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding, Jr. If you have never seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It tells the life story of Carl Brashear, a sailor who overcame incredible odds to become the Navy's first black Master Diver.
As we were watching the movie I was particularly moved by one scene where Carl Brashear is attempting to prove to a board of senior Navy officers that he is physically fit to return to diving duties after having his leg amputated at the knee. As he addresses a Navy captain who was career staff officer and a "by the book" man, as opposed to a warrior, he says, "I have spent most of my life in the Navy trying only to succeed. However, my quest has come at a great personal loss to those that love me. They, too, have made sacrifices. They, too, have endured great pains to support me. If I walk these twelve steps today, reinstate me to active duty. Give me my career back and let me finish it and go home in peace."
The captain responded, "Senior Chief Brashear, the business of the modern Navy..." "Forgive me sir," Carl Brashear interrupted. "But to me the Navy is not a business. We have many traditions. In my career I have experienced most of them. Some good, some bad. However, I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for our greatest tradition of all, honor."
In our military we hold the virtue of honor so highly that we name our highest military decoration for valor and heroism in combat "The Medal of Honor." Our military has a great tradition of honor. Our history books are filled with stories of men and women who have exhibited a lifetime of honorable service. Some distinguishing themselves with heroic acts on the fields of battle, others quietly doing their duty and serving their nation without ever approaching the front lines. Regardless, the virtue of honor that binds us together as warriors is what makes us different. An Airman can serve successfully in the U.S. military without many things, but honor is not one of them!
After watching the movie I was reenergized and more motivated than ever to serve my nation as a U.S. Air Force officer and commander. It reminded me why I joined the Air Force in the first place, why I never left when I had the opportunity, and why I will continue to serve until they kick me out. Honor. Sure there are irritants to complain about and hardships such as frequent moves and family separations. However, serving the greatest nation in the world as a military officer or enlisted person is an honorable undertaking. The sense of pride and honor I receive working with the finest America has to offer gives me a level of satisfaction I am positive I can never find anywhere else. On the outside people may find more money, more time for leisure or more stability, but I venture to guess they will not find the sense of honor and pride serving the nation as a member of the U.S. Air Force brings. I am proud to call myself an Airman and I am proud to serve with all Team Vance "Men (and women) of Honor."