2005 Reunion

Ogden/Hill AFB

George "Sonny" Spurger (537th, 1968) delivering the dedication invocation.  His words are reproduced below.

The Dedication, 14 may 05

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the honor of saying a few words this morning. I don’t say that lightly. In my experience, the things that honor us most are the things that come from the folks we respect the most. I know who you are and where you’ve been and what you’ve done. And I deeply respect you. So, your invitation to speak is truly an honor for me.

Old 757 Has Had Quite a Journey:
She was construction # 220 from de Havilland.
First accepted by the U.S. Army on 1/29/1965 and assigned to the 17th Aviation Company.
On 1/1/67 She was transferred to the USAF and assigned to the 537th TAS Sq with tail code “KN”.
In 1972 she was assigned to the 357th TAS of the 908th TAG of the 94th TAW (AFRES) with tail code “IM”
1981 returned to the Army.
November 1983 she was assigned to the 19th SF Group of the UT ARNG.
In 1991 she was assigned to the Utah State Area Command
In 1992 she was flown to Hill AFB, UT and delivered to the Hill Aerospace Museum
In 2004 she was rediscovered by George Harmon, who with a little help from his friends, has helped her have an “Extreme Makeover”.
Today she looks better than most of us do.

There is a saying in my part of the country, “Been there, done that, got the T Shirt”.
Meaning: “I’ve had that experience.” “I understand that.”

Those who share the same experiences are often called “peers”. Peers know each other. They speak the same language. They are bound together by what they have shared and what they hold in common.

My first wing commander was Col. Jim Jabara. He had been an Ace in WWII and was the Free World’s first Jet Ace in an F-86 in Korea. After his 5th kill in Korea he was brought back to the US to go on a Public Relations Tour. He said that at one gathering he looked at the men in the front two rows and realized that there were a number of WWII German pilots in the group, many of whom had more combat hours and more kills than he did. He stepped away from the podium, sat on the front of the stage, and they just shared war stories! They were “peers”. And as he later said, “No one knows like someone who has been there.”

These we honor today are our peers. We were all there. We are forever bonded by those experiences and memories shared in Southeast Asia that most of the world will never know and certainly can’t understand. You just had to be there.

One of my military heroes was General “Chappie” James, the first African American Four Star General in the Air Force. He spoke at the dining-in for my graduation from pilot training. He had just been awarded his second George Washington Freedom Foundation Award for Patriotism. He spoke to us as young men at a time when there was social unrest everywhere, demonstrations on campuses, and lots of folks looking for ways to make it to Canada. He made a remark in his speech to us that night that has stayed with me through the years. He said, “We will have to carry those folks on our backs. For this is our country. When she is well, we will rejoice with her. And when she is sick, we will hold her hand. And when she needs defending, we will be there.” And this group of “peers” was.

There is a camaraderie formed in times of conflict and combat that makes us brothers in a unique way and spans the years since that time with undiminished commitment and affection. For us in particular, we are bound together by both a war and an airplane.

The Latin Motto on the patch of the 537th, “Gesta Non Verba”, translates to “Deeds not Words”. And certainly those we remember at this dedication will always be remembered for their “deeds”, not what they said about what they believed, but what they did about what they believed. Scripture reminds us that “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” And laying down your life is the ultimate deed.

I would like to suggest that there is another peer here this morning. Aircraft 757 has also, “Been there, done that, and got her brand new T shirt”. Today, she represents all those “Bous” we flew, or crewed, or worked on. She reminds us of experiences and memories we hold in the deepest part of our hearts.

Take a moment and think back to your most memorable experience with a Caribou. It could have been the first time you saw one. It might have been ferrying one across the Pacific. It might have been an air drop over Ben Het or Dak Seang. It might have been a flight across the delta during Monsoon season. It could have been that first Type I landing on some patch of dirt the size of your backyard. It could have even been that beautiful afternoon when you finally found out that she could do a pretty good lazy 8. Whatever it was, the Bou was there, shared it, and is a peer.

So, I would like for us to issue a charge of honor, Peer to Peer, for Aircraft 757.

(Would those of you who flew the Bou, crewed her, or worked on her please stand with me?)

Would you join me in charging 757 with the honor and responsibility to stand vigil over the memories of our comrades and the memories of our experiences? Would you assist me by paying our respects to our peers?

(Please face the plaque and aircraft)

AT EASE (Please be seated)

May these “peers” of ours, both those whose names are on the plaque and this aircraft that we have just commissioned to stand watch, be a reminder to all those who visit this place, that Freedom Is Never Free!

May God bless you, and all your memories, and all our peers, and the United States of America.


13 Jan 2009 05:58 PM