Today’s combat warriors are heroes of the 4th Fighter Wing

  • Published
  • By Dr. Roy Heidicker
  • 4th Fighter Wing historian
In this series on the greatest heroes of the 4th Fighter Wing, we have learned more about the origins, actions and motivations of some of our finest heroes. 

We have learned that heroes come in all ages, nationalities and genders.
So what is left to say regarding the subject of heroes? 

When I originally set out to write this series, I intended for the final article to wrap up this legacy of heroism. My purpose was to propose that each and every member of the wing - past, present and future - has contributed or will contribute to this legacy of heroism. 

All members of the "Fourth, but First" are heroes in their own right because of their membership to this immortal organization of heroes. But while writing this story during my deployment to Southwest Asia, I realized I wasn't telling the entire story of the wing's heroes - past and present. 

In the great battle of our time, the Global War on Terror, I am an observer, but I have the rare privilege of working for the extraordinary patriots who are taking the fight to the enemy. Even on the plane ride here, I knew I was surrounded by gallant men and women who are dedicated to our nation. There was a sense of commitment, determination and power that marked these servicemembers. They were from several branches of the service, mostly young, though some were older. For the most part, they were quiet, seemingly lost in their own thoughts. As they headed into harm's way, they probably thought of the families, friends and loved ones that they had left behind. 

Being assigned to an air expeditionary wing is truly an honor. How can the men and women of this AEW not carry a legacy of heroism equal to that of the men and women of the 4th FW? The truth is both organizations and their members carry on the qualities in the tradition of heroes. But the wings are but two of many organizations fighting in the Global War on Terror. Do not all Americans fighting this war, claim the legacy of heroes gone before within them? 

Absolutely, positively and for certain! Every American patriot from the founding of the country until the present and who has fought for our noble nation is a true hero. 

However, our heroes of today are owed a particular debt of thanks by our nation and by all people of good will. These warriors are few in number, but powerful in heart, purpose and commitment. 

All the patriots who came before would acknowledge the men and women serving today as fully credentialed members of the family of heroes. 

After the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill thanked the brave pilots of the Royal Air Force in words that have become well known and often quoted. 

He said, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
These words now belong to every American fighting the war on terror. 

It is not politically correct to think of America as a special nation. As a historian, I am taught that all nations and all cultures are equivalent. Observing the fortitude and compassion of America's servicemembers, who are truly special people, allows me to respond to my teaching in the academically-appropriate word, "phooey!" 

Members of today's Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard are the equal of any force ever fielded by America. Minutemen, Yankees, Doughboys, GIs and Grunts would be proud to call today's servicemembers their colleagues. So would the Tuskegee Airmen, the Eagle Squadrons, the 4th Fighter Group and all those who served in the 4th Fighter Wing. 

Through the ages, despite differences in their uniforms, the enemy they fought or the time in which they lived, American heroes share a bond forged in the cauldron of war. 

Honor them all, but especially honor those who prosecute the great battle of our day.