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Memorial serves as true Air Force symbol

  • Published
  • By Capt. Nathan A. White
  • 66th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate
My father, like most fathers, is a difficult person to buy gifts for. He never wants anything, so you have to be creative -- always a daunting task.

This past summer, with my father's August birthday fast approaching and after receiving the customary "I don't want anything" answer, I already had the perfect gift in mind: A donation to the Air Force Memorial Foundation.

I made a donation on behalf of my father, retired Lt. Col. Neil R. White, for his service to our country. A Vietnam veteran and command C-141 Starlifter pilot, my father has always been my biggest role model. His example led me to make one of the smartest decisions of my life: joining Air Force ROTC and becoming an Airman.

As a result of the donation, my father received an invitation and tickets to attend the Oct. 14 dedication of the Air Force Memorial. My wife and I joined my father and other family members in Washington, D.C., to attend the dedication ceremony.

I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to be present at one of the proudest days for the Air Force. The memorial is a fitting tribute to the world's mightiest Air Force -- a silent sentinel on a low rise keeping watch over Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and our nation's capital.

When we arrived at the ceremony, my initial reaction was that the memorial was smaller than I expected it to be. I thought the memorial was going to dominate the skyline, but it does not.

After a while, though, I realized that the prominent, yet modest scale of the memorial was picture perfect because, whether intended or not, the memorial's scale symbolizes the quiet professionalism that makes the Air Force one of the greatest American institutions.

The Air Force Memorial, like the Air Force itself, is prominent, yet modest -- not seeking to take center stage.

I cannot wait to return to the Washington area during Thanksgiving to study the memorial more closely, to admire its stunning architecture, to remember all Airmen who have served and the 54,000 killed in combat, and to salute the quiet professionalism that is the Air Force. I also plan to humbly recall an amazing fact that I learned during the dedication -- that no American ground force has come under air attack since the Korean War because the Air Force is supreme, and to silently thank my father for his example to a scruffy, 17-year-old, influencing him to make the best decision of his life.