C-7A MEMORIAL DEDICATION
Presented to the Caribou Association, Dyess AFB, Texas, on March 9, 2002 by General Eugene E. Habiger, USAF (Ret.), and currently President & CEO of the San Antonio Water System, San Antonio, Texas.
“This is a very important day in the proud history of the dedicated, professional aviators who flew and maintained the C-7A Caribou. Few, if any, will remember what we say here today, but many, over the years to come, will see the memorial we will dedicate here today. Our purpose is quite simple…to pay our respects to 38 of our brothers who gave the ultimate sacrifice…their lives…for their country on that battleground so far away…so long ago.
Our Caribou family is relatively small. I did a little back-of-the-envelope calculations and figured that in the 7-year span we served collectively in Vietnam, about 7,000 of us can lay claim to being part of the Caribou clan. Our clan was composed of many World War II and Korean War Vets. We were populated by many crusty…old Lieutenant Colonels and Majors…lots of Lieutenants. Our enlist force was more balanced with top-notch Senior Non Commissioned Officers and Senior Airmen.
We had our share of “individualists” who ignored the pleas of our senior officers not to stop in at Phan Thiet for a no-notice taxi back to pick up a load of fresh lobsters or to exercise our right of passage to levy a Bou tax on a shipment of T-bone steaks.
Of course, our antics during the Christmas holidays by painting some of our planes with Rudolph red noses and eyes to become “Santa Bous” was quickly recognized as an attribute of a group of caring, professionals with a sense of humor and compassion.
At any given time, we had about 100 aircraft on the ramps. Of course, our elite maintenance troops were in a class by themselves. Here are some of the 781 maintenance corrective actions that our surly crew chiefs have allegedly entered into the forms.
Write-up: left main landing gear tire almost needs replacement
Corrective action: almost replaced left main landing gear tire
Write-up: “something loose in cockpit”
Corrective action: “something tightened in cockpit”
And the ultimate slam that, I think we can all relate to:
Write-up: “dead bugs on windshield”
Corrective action: “live bugs on order”
Ours was not a pretty airplane…ours was not a particularly glamorous mission. The C-7A has been described as a “light tactical transport designed for operations in the most primitive of conditions.” I think most of us here today would say….”Amen” to that!
We flew into some of the worst of ground firetraps…like Duc Lap, Ben Het, Dang Seang and a host of others.
While the world and the threats to our national security have changed dramatically since our Caribou days in Vietnam, one thing has not changed, and that is the confidence in our military…to be ready to fight anytime…anywhere…against any enemy.
Since September 11 and the resulting deployment of our forces into Afghanistan and a number of other countries around the world…our warriors continue to do whatever is asked to defend our great nation.
What sets us apart…in my view most importantly…everyone who have worn or wears the uniform of the greatest nation on earth…raise their hand and each takes a most solemn oath. To preserve and protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. This is what I call the unlimited liability clause…no other profession can make that claim.
One of the basic givens of the profession of arms is the total and absolute commitment to lay down one’s life…and everything in between to protect our great nation and what we stand for. That is why we are here today to honor those 38 of our clan who made the ultimate sacrifice. This memorial will stand for many generations to come as tribute to what our profession of arms is all about…but, most importantly, to memorialize 38 great Americans who willingly paid the ultimate price for freedom.
There is a piece of scripture that puts, most importantly, into perspective what we and our 38 brothers were all about in that far away place… a long time ago. It comes from the 2nd Book of Timothy.
I have fought a good fight
I have finished my course
I have kept the faith
God bless their souls and…God bless America.”