Dan Clark, motivational speaker, New York Times bestseller, and international business consultant, spoke at the Hill Air Force Base Ball held in conjunction with the Air Force's 65th birthday in the Hill Aerospace Museum on Sept. 7.
In addition to recognizing the new Community Wingmen, another group was recognized -- a Gold Star family who had been invited to the ball. Wolfgang and Krista Seager, lost their son, Cpl. Eric Seager, who was killed in action Feb. 1, 2007, in Iraq.
A birthday cake was cut by the longest retired Air Force man present, Chief Master Sgt. (Ret.) John Perkins. He was joined by the Air Force member present with the highest rank, Brig. Gen. Brent Baker, commander of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex, and the member present with the lowest rank, Airman 1st Class Nathan Etolle.
In Clark's remarks he talked about his tour at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, and how the director, Charles Metcalf, stopped the tour within 10 minutes after beginning it when Clark kept providing comment after comment about the amazing aircraft. Clark recalled his saying, "Dan, tour over. Sir, the tour is over." When he asked why, Metcalfe replied, "This museum is not about inanimate objects -- it's about the people who flew them. It's about the people who maintained them."
Clark enthusiastically spoke about his flights in various Air Force aircraft, including the SR-71. He said that when he arrived high in the atmosphere, about 15 miles above the earth, and heard that at that moment he and his pilot were the highest people above the earth, except for those on the space station, his visor fogged up. He unhooked his hot mic, and spent 45 minutes while he pondered eternity and looked at the blackness of space.
Clark said, "You know what occurred to me? Everything we can take with us when we die I had aboard with me on that aircraft: character, education, convictions -- what do we believe, why do we do what we do and most significantly -- did my life matter?"
Clark said he wondered if he would have a legacy of valor.
With the theme of the ball, "Legacy of Valor," Clark defined valor as "courage under fire." He defined courage as "doing something hard."
He said, "If it was easy everybody would do it - the hard is what makes it great."
Besides flying in an F-16 at Hill AFB, an F-15 and other aircraft at other various locations, Clark took the opportunity to fly in an F-4, because he had friends who were Vietnam veterans and POWs.
He said that in talking with his friends who were former POWs that each man had felt equipped to survive their parachute landing, thrive and live to fight another day -- but then as POWs their first experience was to be stripped naked.
Clark said it was not what was on them that allowed them to return to America with honor, it was what was in them, as he briefly recalled some of the experiences his friend, Jerry Coffey, had explained about his 7 ¬½ years in Hoa Loa prison, otherwise known as the Hanoi Hilton.
He said that emotion was evident in all four prisoners when he interviewed them about their experiences.
Clark said that he supposed that was what was being celebrated at the ball besides the three Community Wingmen, and the amazing vehicles, "was because they allow us to rise to the occasion and step forward."
Clark said that if the three Community Wingmen were questioned about why they serve, why 40 squadrons of Airmen or the equivalent at Hill Air Force Base serve, it would boil down to "I feel needed and that's why I serve."
Clark urged all those who might not feel needed to get more involved. "So the kicker word to commitment relationships is to participate more, get more involved," he said. "If you don't feel like you're needed at home, participate, get involved. If you don't feel like you're needed in the community, participate more, get involved."
He said to consider getting involved in the community, especially during an election year.
He commended those present at the event for their drive for high performance and giving it everything they've got.
He closed with some humorous remarks about his experiences with a bad commercial airline landing and how a flight attendant's remarks over the intercom crediting another airline if they didn't enjoy their experience seemed to eventually lighten the mood. The final approach had included landing, then bouncing up, and then landing, and then bouncing up and then landing again finally. The flight attendant said finally afterward to everyone, "Please remain seated until Captain Kangaroo bounces us the rest of the way to the gate."
The humor was contagious. He overheard an older woman with a cane ask the pilot as she approached the door, "Are you the pilot?" He replied, "Yes, m'am." She asked, "Are you sure we landed or were we shot down?"
Clark thanked the U.S. Air Force for keeping everyone safe and everyone for having him there to the event.
Col. Sarah Zabel, 75th Air Base Wing commander, closed the spoken portion of the event when she picked up on the theme of change which Clark had briefly touched upon earlier in his remarks on how much Air Force aircraft have changed.
She said that the celebration of the anniversary of the Air Force actually predated its birth. Zabel said in the trenches of WWI people suffering for four years figured out that there had to be a better way. "This does not work. This is not right. I have a better idea," she said they began coming up with ways to overcome the enemy when the enemy is just as strong as you are.
"They developed their ideas and they thought that we can do so much better than we've done before," the colonel said.
"We can extend the geography of the battle, we can extend the entire meaning of the battle," she said. They figured out they could fly behind enemy lines and destroy factories so tanks couldn't be built and refineries couldn't provide fuel.
"Well now we have the world's finest Air Force. We truly have global reach, global power and global vigilance," said Zabel. "And it's because of those people's ideas. They were innovators."
She said the world doesn't stop and it keeps changing. "We have our new domestic situation, we have new enemies, a new worldwide situation and we need innovation - we need people to think up new thoughts, to have better ideas and that's what our Airmen do."
She charged those present "to never stop thinking, never stop innovating and never stop being proud of who you are and what you do for the country."
Zabel thanked everyone for coming and also thanked the Air Force Ball commitee members for their hard work.