Faithful to a Proud Heritage

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. William Burich
  • 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron

While the Airman’s Creed holds a special place in our Air Force heritage, the second verse holds a very special place in my heart: “I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor.”     

In my office, I have a picture my Grandfather gave to me many years ago before he passed away.  The picture was taken at Fort Lewis, Washington in 1942 before his unit in the 33rd Infantry Division was sent to fight in the Pacific during World War II.  The 151 soldiers in the photo are of various ranks and ages and came to the 33rd ID from all across the United States.  They came from all different walks of life and backgrounds, but were united in the common cause of defending our nation and our freedoms. 

I have this photo in my office to remind me of the long line of Americans who came before us and wore the uniform to defend our nation and our way of life. While the urgent tasks and the events of each day come and go, I try to make a point to take a few brief moments of each day to look at that photo and reflect on the sacrifice these Soldiers made when our nation needed them most.

Some voluntarily enlisted and others were drafted, but all of them left the lives they were living, put on our nation’s uniform and defended the freedoms we enjoy today without knowing if they would ever come back home.  Looking into their eyes, I see a rugged determination and a steadfastness that is hard to put into words, but I’m sure drove fear into the hearts of their enemies. Their resolute and determined look represents to me the proud heritage, tradition of honor and legacy of valor that we profess in the Airman’s Creed.  I don’t know how many of the Soldiers in that photo returned home after the war, nor do I know how many of them are buried on the Pacific islands they fought so hard to wrestle away from the enemy, but I know all of them sacrificed greatly in order to defend the freedoms we enjoy as Americans today.  

As I reflect on their photo and think about my role as a leader in the U.S. Air Force and soon to be the U.S. Space Force, I hope I can be the leader that my people, my mission and my nation need.  I hope the effort I give each and every day is worthy of the sacrifices they made on foreign battlefields far from home.  If you ever find yourself near 3rd SES and have a few minutes to spare, feel free to stop by my office and take a look at the picture for yourself.  I’d love to introduce you to a few of the brave Americans who came before us to defend our nation and our freedoms many years ago.  After you take a step back in time and gaze into their eyes, if you are anything like me, I think you will walk a little bit prouder and stand a little bit taller after you meet them.  They represent those who came before us to answer our nation’s call.  They didn’t falter and they did not fail.  It is through their selfless example we carry on their legacy of valor and their tradition of honor.  It is to their heritage we continue to remain ever faithful.