By Col Brian Newberry, Commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington. The Wing provides global reach airpower and deploys expeditionary forces in support of worldwide combat, contingency, and humanitarian requirements.
Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway. – John Wayne
America was founded on courage – whether it is the original colonists settling a brave new world or our astronauts exploring new frontiers far, far away. Present in any American’s heart is the spirit of charity and spirit of adventure, both fueled by courage. It is why America is a shining light for the world, signaling freedom and achievement. T.S. Elliot reminds us that “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” America has risked much in our two hundred plus year march to freedom, and because of it, we have helped end tyranny in foreign lands, discovered cures for horrible diseases like polio and transformed the way we live with inventions like the light bulb and the airplane.
Courage, or the willingness to confront fear, uncertainty or intimidation, is not just required of our astronauts or airmen … it is required of all us; most notably, our school students in today’s dynamic times. Global economic competition, budget challenges and the explosion of social media put today’s students in a tumultuous environment. If we are to remain on our march to freedom, our students, our future, need to remain sure-footed and yes, courageous. It is easy with shifting sands to hold up and not move forward for fear of slipping. Quite the contrary, our students and teachers need to take bold and giant steps to keep us a shining beacon for others to follow. We need new challenging classes, new technological aids and students with the fortitude to take chances and do their best daily. That is courage … that is taking risk to see how far America can go.
The very good news is after seeing our schools in action, I see bold steps being taken. I see courage on the march. That bodes well for a bright American future. I have met Eagle Scouts who have the courage to complete difficult Eagle projects that will leave a legacy of excellence for generations. I have met a local Girl Scout, MacKenna Jones of Cheney schools, who battled against mighty odds to raise funds to build a monument for our service men and women that will forever stand in testament to their courage. I have met two Spokane Lilac Festival Lilac Courts, 14 young ladies, who nobly put aside so much of their senior year to put forth service before self and to make a difference daily for our military and our community. I certainly know of a courageous young Michael Anderson Elementary student, London Bowater, who refuses to quit and is battling back with all her might to beat back a reoccurrence of cancer. They all define courage.
Last year, my Wing lost three airmen in a tragic aircraft crash overseas. We stood down overseas for twelve hours, but knowing that soldiers needed the blanket of air cover overhead, American airmen began flying again soon thereafter. That is courage, saddling up on our venerable KC-135 steeds, not knowing all the details of the accident, but knowing that American soldiers’ lives were at risk if we did not continue to fuel freedom. Our airmen are courageous … our students like London are courageous. As such, we as a noble nation have a very bright future. Together, we will look uncertainty in the eye and not blink. Together, we will continue our march to freedom.