I just returned from the 30th-anniversary reunion of the class of 1988 from the US Air Force Academy. It was awesome — but the story I would like to tell starts and ends at Falcon Stadium with the Air Force song.
The Cadet Drum and Bugle Corps takes every opportunity to play the first and most well-known verse of the Air Force Song. Come on, you know you want to sing it…
Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder
At ’em boys, Give ‘er the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!
Pretty good fight song actually, and perfectly in line with other sentiments pilots and crew have, like:
“Because I fly, I envy no man on earth” — Grover C. Norwood
“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Of course, there is always this admonition for those who fly.
“Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.” — seen at just about every flying school
The second verse (much less well known) is written for the rest of the Air Force — the scientists and engineers and the missile crews and everyone else who has a hand in making the USAF the most violent and precise military force the planet has ever seen.
A buddy of mine, a missileer, was retiring this past summer and I suggested that he make the audience sing the second verse of the Air Force Song — just to drive home that it isn’t just about Pilots and Aircrew. (And to highlight that they probably didn’t know the Air Force Song had a second verse — but I am just an instugator that way.)
Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder
Sent it high into the blue
Hands of men blasted the world a-sunder
How they lived God only knew!
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore.
Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!
The third verse of the Air Force Song is our memorial verse. I got to sing it twice at the reunion. The first time was at our memorial ceremony for our fallen classmates — the first of which we lost 33 years ago. We held the memorial ceremony in the Academy Chapel. Presided over by our most senior active member, a Lt. General and two of our own who have become chaplains. For this ceremony, those of us who were in cadet choirs gathered into a single choir, under the direction of our retired choirmaster to sing for the memorial. The third verse is sung at every home game, where the football team stands in front of the cadet wing and we all sing to our departed airmen. It has a different melody and is sung in a more somber tone. Typically, when the service academies compete, we each take time to sing each service’s memorial verse — with the visiting team going first followed by the home team and everyone in attendance singing.
Here’s a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old
Then down we roar to score the rainbow’s pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!
The fourth verse is for people like me, past our active service and giving a nod to the generations following us — perpetuating the Long Blue Line.
Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true
If you’d live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
Flying men, guarding the nation’s border,
we’ll be there followed by more!
In echelon we carry on
Oh, nothing’ll stop the Air Force!
Nothing’ll stop the U.S. Air Force!
My class is the thirtieth to graduate from the academy. This year, the academy graduated its sixtieth class. From this point forward, the class of 1988 is closer to the beginning of the school than we are to current senior class (2019).
The reunion was the first time I had seen the Air Force Falcons play in person since the 25th reunion. My middle son and I made this trip ourselves and it was the first time he had seen a football game played in person. It was a great game!
We talked about how the game is played on the field, but actually has three domains it is played in — the field, the clock, and the rules. The game against Nevada showed how it is played in all three domains, eventually coming down to the very last play. The last play, with seconds on the clock was an Air Force Hail Mary that was incomplete and Nevada won 28-25. It could have gone the other way.
The most remarkable thing though, was when the Falcons came over to sing the third verse with the cadet wing they were joined by the Wolf Pack — this is the picture at the top of the post. Sure, other service academies do it all the time but I have never witnessed a civilian school do the same. That was class. Well Done Nevada!