Commentary by Lt. Col. Amy Robinson
50th Operations Group deputy commander
I was thinking about my grandfather the other day — I had just finished reading a book that I thought he would have found interesting. I wished I could tell him about it, but he passed away a few months ago at almost 93 years old. My thoughts led me to reflect on what an influence he had on my life and to wonder where I would be today if he had been a different person.
My grandfather was my inspiration for joining the Air Force. He was a positive example in many ways — service to our country, physical fitness, and lifelong learning. I think about my own children and consider what kind of impression I leave on others. I am sure that most of us who have been in the Air Force for a while can point to outstanding individuals who set examples for us to follow, but sometimes it is harder to keep in mind that we are setting an example for those who will follow us.
My grandfather loved the Air Force. He had an exciting career and told us remarkable stories… he was a walking advertisement for the Air Force. He graduated from flight school and began his career in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and then he and my grandmother were married on December 7 of that year. The attack on Pearl Harbor that day meant they would not have the chance to take a honeymoon. From both of their accounts, though, they were able to do plenty of traveling the rest of their lives. One of my grandfather’s early responsibilities was ferrying airplanes from the factories where they were built to where they were needed, and I remember his fond description of how he was qualified to fly every plane in the Army Air Corps inventory at that time. Later he flew supplies to the Chinese who were fighting the Japanese over the Himalayan Mountains — affectionately known as “the Hump.” After the end of World War II, for as long as he was able to travel, he met regularly with his fellow “Hump” Pilots — to me it was a testament to the strong bond he shared with other Air Force members, an additional benefit of being a member.
One of my earliest memories of my grandfather did not seem to have anything to do with his Air Force career- I remember going swimming with him almost every day when I was three and four years old. I thought it was just a way to have fun, and I was excited to have someone to play with me. It was when I was a teenager that my grandfather explained that he swam every day to stay in shape. He had served in WWII and Korea, but had never been shot until he was in Vietnam and was caught in small arms crossfire. He recovered, but the injuries to his foot troubled him throughout his life. He was adamant to stay in shape to maintain his quality of life, so swimming was a perfect way to exercise without aggravating his foot.
When my grandfather retired from the Air Force, he was determined it would not mean he would stop learning, so he went to law school. He enjoyed the challenge, but after graduating, realized he had a lot of other interests that retirement allowed him to pursue. He and my grandmother traveled extensively, and throughout his life, he read voraciously. From the time I was in college, my grandfather would ask me questions about things he had read about new discoveries in physics. He had supported the hydrogen bomb tests in the Pacific as a weather officer, and was fascinated with the latest revelations about subatomic particles. He had a creative outlet through woodworking — I am fortunate to have the wooden rocking giraffe he built for my fourth birthday. He also enjoyed working puzzles, and believed that it was as important to exercise his mind as his body.
Of course, I am biased about the strength of the example my grandfather set, but another incident a few years ago showed me that we can leave impressions on others without realizing it. My grandfather was visiting my parents in Arkansas, and as he was going through security at the airport on his way back to California, the security person got very excited and asked him if he had ever been stationed in Bermuda. My grandfather was surprised and told the gentleman that in the late 1950s he had been in command of the Hurricane Hunters there, responsible for flying into hurricanes to collect weather information. This gentleman had been a young Air Force member at the time and remembered my grandfather close to 50 years later.
John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” On a daily basis, I am amazed at the important mission with far-reaching impacts we have here at Schriever, and by the dedication and intelligence it takes across the board to accomplish the things that are done every day. I would encourage everyone to take the time to thank those formal and informal leaders who have inspired this achievement, and then remember to follow them by setting an example for those who are following you.