Do you know our heroes?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Douglas Kesler
  • 33d Fighter Wing Command Chief
I have my own definition of what a hero is. My definition is a person who I personally respect and admire for not only what they accomplished, but also their impeccable character. 

As a young boy growing up in Iowa, finding or learning about heroes (outside of my family) came from three network television stations, movies, magazines or books. My heroes tended to be sports figures like Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Franco Harris. The chance of really seeing, meeting or even talking to a hero while walking around my small town was pure fantasy. 

However, joining the greatest Air Force on earth has changed my pool of heroes. I knew immediately in my first days of basic training that there were many men and women wearing uniforms that I greatly admired. As I've grown and matured over the years, I've noticed that the vast majority of my heroes now serve or have served in our great Air Force. 

It's no longer pure fantasy to see, meet or even talk to my heroes. We all have hit the lottery being able to live and serve at Eglin Air Force Base. Not only because of the beautiful beaches and communities right outside our gates, but also for the opportunities we have to interact with the wealth of heroes in the local area. 

On any given day you can drive down Eglin Parkway and see the most decorated member in Air Force history, Medal of Honor recipient Col. Bud Day.
While waiting for a green light on John Sims Parkway, you can look over at the car next to you and see the 9th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Jim Binnicker. Chief Binnicker continues to be a hero to many with his incredible service to the Air Force Enlisted Village. 

Perhaps you are strolling through the base exchange and find yourself in the checkout line with Air Force Cross recipient Chief Master Sgt. Joel Talley. Or one day you may play golf at the Kelly Plantation Freedom Classic and see Gen. Chuck Horner, former Central Command Air Forces commander and architect of the air campaign during Desert Storm. 

While these former Air Force members are my heroes and are accessible in the local area, there are those that are still serving in the Air Force that are admired and seen by many as a hero. For instance, at the end of February, Chief Master Sgt. Dale Burbick, a Nomad serving in the 33rd Fighter Wing, is going to retire after more then 33 years of service. To many who have served with him, he is their hero. They looked up to him because he's earned their respect. 

In addition to his great character and leadership, we can also measure Chief Burbick's service with one huge metric. Not once during his entire service has any adversary's air force ever dropped a munition on any Airman, Soldier, Sailor or Marine ... now that is the pure definition of Air Power! 

This is just the tip of the iceberg for the heroes that call the Emerald Coast their home. I'm hoping these few words will make you pause and think about the many heroes you work with and see every day. They could be anywhere, across the office from you, at the cashier line at Wal-Mart, or driving down Miracle Strip Parkway. Just make sure you take the time to see, meet and talk to them - it's a chance of lifetime. Who knows - someday you could be on someone's hero list.