04 August 2010

A Man of substantial character

"I was at a small Air Force Base in Germany, flying OV-10's, keeping the east Germans out of the west. On December 24th, my wife and I had a serious issue: our daughter had been lethargic for four or five days. It was 17 kilometers to the base clinic. It was snowing cats and dogs.

"We got there, and the flight doc didn't care. I was a forceful 2nd Lt, and I got my daughter to the emergency room doctor. He looked her over for thirty seconds and said, "She has spinal meningitis. And he said it like he didn't care. The world stopped spinning. My wife and I stared at each other: we couldn't say anything. And right then, LT tapped me on the shoulder and said, Magoo, what do you need? And I said, I just need a hug.

"I don't know where I'd be without LT, a member of the class of 1982. A man of substantial character.

"A few years later, I'd done pretty well in the flying world, and I got to take the squadron I'd been serving in over to Operation Desert Storm. One day, I was mission lead, and we had a rough day: two aircraft down. It was a three-hour jaunt back to base. I got there, and walked over to base ops in the 150 degree heat, shoulders slumped - it was a sad day. And I thought, whoever the commander of these forces is must be feeling terrible right now. And then someone tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to an old gray-haired man, the commander of those forces. And he had a huge smile on his face, and he put his arm around me, and he said, Magoo, how ya doin'? And I said, Right now I'm fantastic, sir. Brigadier General Bethurem was a member of the class of 1966.

"The General. A man of fantastic character.

"I was the commander, and my squadron had just returned from the sandbox. I was with my wife and the members of my squadron, my group, my wing. It was about 2000, and something dropped inside me. I told me wife, let's get out of here, let's go home. That wasn't normal for me. About 0200, I got a call. I knew it was bad. My mom was hysteric. My dad was dying.

"I made a few phone calls and got a 0600 flight from Dover to Colorado Springs. I had to leave base at 0400 to get there. When I walked out to my care, two men were waiting for me: LtCol and LtCol. They asked, Magoo, what do you need? I said, right now, all I need is a hug. Those men were from the class of 1981 and 1983.

"Men of outstanding character.

"I look around this room, having been in your shoes. And I've already spoken too long, but I want to leave you with this. I see 2500 eyeballs looking back at me. You've all volunteered to serve during a time of war. And I know the enemy had better be afraid.

"God bless you all."

Brigadier General Tod Walters is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and a member of the class of 1982. He has over 4900 hours in the F-22, F-15, OV-10 and T-38. He spoke at the class of 2012 Commitment Dinner tonight.

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