HomeNewsArticle Display

Fearless flyers teach lesson of bravery, courage, honor

Photos of Royal Flying Corps Airmen who perished during World War I are displayed in Hangar II at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. The RFC supported the British Army by employing artillery co-operation, photographic reconnaissance and eventually aerial battles with German pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Photos of Royal Flying Corps Airmen who perished during World War I are displayed in Hangar II at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. The RFC supported the British Army by employing artillery co-operation, photographic reconnaissance and eventually aerial battles with German pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

The Royal Air Force uniform emblem sits displayed in Hangar I at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. Formed towards the end of World War I on April 1, 1918, the RAF is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF played a huge part during World War II, most famously during the Battle of Britain, which lasted from July 1940-October 1940. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

The Royal Air Force uniform emblem sits displayed in Hangar I at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. Formed towards the end of World War I on April 1, 1918, the RAF is the oldest independent air force in the world. The RAF played a huge part during World War II, most famously during the Battle of Britain, which lasted from July 1940-October 1940. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Flight Sergeant John Hannah’s burned flight equipment from World War II action, which would earn him the Victoria Cross, on display at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. At 18 years old, Hannah was the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross for aerial operations. Hannah died on June 7, 1947, after contracting tuberculosis in 1941. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Flight Sergeant John Hannah’s burned flight equipment from World War II action, which would earn him the Victoria Cross, on display at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. At 18 years old, Hannah was the youngest recipient of the Victoria Cross for aerial operations. Hannah died on June 7, 1947, after contracting tuberculosis in 1941. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Royal Air Corps and Royal Air Force squadron patches on display in Hangar III at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. The RFC was the air arm of the British Army before and during World War I, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1, 1018 to form the RAF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Royal Air Corps and Royal Air Force squadron patches on display in Hangar III at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. The RFC was the air arm of the British Army before and during World War I, until it merged with the Royal Naval Air Service on April 1, 2018 to form the RAF. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

An unnamed Royal Air Force squadron leader and pilot during the Battle of Britain displayed in Hangar III at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. Between July 1940 and October 1940, 1,495 aircrew were killed: 449 fighter pilots, 718 aircrews from bomber command and 280 from coastal command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

An unnamed Royal Air Force squadron leader and pilot during the Battle of Britain displayed in Hangar III at the RAF Museum, London, England, Nov. 30, 2018. Between July 1940 and October 1940, 1,495 aircrew were killed: 449 fighter pilots, 718 aircrews from bomber command and 280 from coastal command. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few,” said Winston Churchill.

These words may have been spoken in regards to the young Royal Air Force pilots who stopped Hitler’s Luftwaffe at England’s doorstep during the Battle of Britain, but I don’t think truer words could be used to describe the young, fresh-faced men and women who should have been finishing their education, finding love and enjoying life.

Instead, they were called upon to fly thousands of feet into the air, inside steel “coffins,” zooming at hundreds of miles per hour to escape near death and peril - many not being able to escape their demises.

Wars have brought millions to their knees and millions more to an early grave, but these courageous heroes have always been a part of overwhelming Allied forces who took their adversaries down.

Whether it was defeating the central powers during World War I, Hitler and his band of thugs during World War II, or any other conflict the RAF has been involved in since, it has always been on the backs of men, women and boys who had their entire lives ahead of them, but war and defending their island home suddenly came to the forefront.

The RAF Museum (London) resiliency trip was a remarkable experience for me, an Airman who has always had a fascination with flying and the history of not only the Air Force, but that of our fervent ally, the RAF. My grandfather and great uncles were part of the “greatest generation” who put their lives on pause and embarked on what was no doubt the scariest, but most exhilarating time of their lives.

This museum is a wonderful memoriam to how through history these brave flyers, maintainers, administrators and every other nut and bolt of the RAF were able to take such beautiful, but deadly, pieces of machinery up into the skies of Europe and beyond, never knowing if they would come back.

I was so very humbled first walking into each of the three main hangars, each designed to house different historical aspects of the RAF’s history. Hangar I is dedicated to the Airmen who put everything on the line for the Queen, King and Country. Hangar II displays the early rise of the force and its involvement during World War I, where rickety, wooden inventions were brought into the sky and heroes did everything they could to take out the enemy.

Above all else, Hangar III stood out to me the most because of its display of World War II and post-World War II era airplanes and the stories they tell. This time period happens to be what I think is the most critical and interesting time in human history. Six years of violence, bloodshed, fascism, racism, democracy and of course of the triumph of freedom, but with a devastating cost. The displays of RAF Spitfires, Lancaster bombers and even a few American machines of war reminded me of the ultimate price many had to pay for our world to become a little brighter.

The world we live in today is very different than the one these warriors lived in, but our world is better off because of the countless sacrifices not only the men and women of the RAF have made through time, but of all those in the armed forces. This trip reminded me of that, and has forever cemented in my mind the reality that I have been able to live the life I live only because others gave up everything.

They were my age and enjoyed the same fruits of life as I do, but many never came home to their loved ones or friends ever again. This is why I chose to go on this trip - to pay my respects - and I am forever grateful for what they accomplished.

Resiliency means having the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, display toughness and overcome anything that comes your way. Our British brothers and sisters have always been by our side, laid down their lives as we have and to this day continue to fight for freedom and democracy as we do.

None of what we have at RAF Mildenhall or anywhere the Stars and Stripes or Union Jack fly could be possible without the valiant efforts of those who have come before, serve with us now and will serve in the future. I am proud to serve my country; I am proud to be American Airman.