When human beings are faced with conflict, it’s said that we can have one of two reactions: fight or flight. On September 18th, 1947, America chose both.
At the end of World War II, trench fighting had lost popularity in favor of a new, more aerodynamic approach; at the council of his cabinet, President Harry Truman signed a National Security Act that not only established the Department of Defense, but gave the go-ahead for the creation of a whole new sector of the military: the United States Air Force.
From 1909 until its founding, the Air Force took a variety of different forms.
When the United States began purchasing its first armed aircrafts, it was dubbed the Aeronautical Section, Signal Corps. After World War I, it was renamed the United States Army Air Service, and remained under the Army for almost 30 years. It wasn’t until World War II that it became clear how important airpower was to the strength of the military, and the result was the independent service of the Air Force.
In the seven decades following, the Air Force has proven itself to be an invaluable part of our military striking force and national defense. New knowledge and equipment has continued to evolve, keeping us at the forefront of aircraft mechanics and technology, and as one of the leading military powers in the world.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dick Muri was in the military for 23 years. When he joined up in ‘75, he was ready to do something exciting; he wanted a solid start in life, and could think of no better way to achieve that than in serving his nation.
“As a young 19-year-old, I was curious about what the Air Force could offer me,” Muri said.
His first assignment was at McChord Air Force Base, where he attended flight training to become a C-141 navigator; he would go on to fly the 141 Starlifter through his entire career. As a cargo flier, Muri’s job was to supply everything that his fellow servicemen needed.
“The ultimate goal of the Air Force, to do our mission and to do it well, is to support the guy with the boots on the ground,” Muri said.
“You don’t win battles or campaigns through the air alone.”
Retired from the service now for 21 years, Muri is continually impressed with the changes happening since he’s left. Their safety record improves every year, with technology and training at its highest standard yet; Muri describes it as tenfold more effective.
“Everybody says, ‘The Air Force is smaller than it’s ever been!’ But I say size doesn’t matter — it’s whether you can be efficient in either moving cargo or getting bombs on their target. That’s what it really comes down to.”
There’s a certain level of technical expertise that sets the Air Force apart from the other services. They are known for their business-like culture, and ability to operate large, important pieces of equipment. Utilizing complex missile and air warning systems, Airmen consistently have to step up their game with the growing role that technology plays in our military.
“All the forces are professional in a different way, but ours is mainly based on having the systematical and technical capacity to do things right, safely, 100% of the time,” Muri said.
Now a State Representative, Muri has been politically active since his retirement from the military. He was on a local Steilacoom school board for seven years, which led him to a seat on the Pierce County council for nearly a decade. Today, he’s five years into representing Washington’s 28th legislative district. Muri remains involved in the military community. He is planning on attending the Air Force Ball to celebrate the service’s 71st birthday.
“If you know somebody who’s been in the service, maybe it’s time to send them an email, a text message, or make a Facebook post. If you see them in person, just thank them for their service,” Muri stated. “We served honorably, and with a lot of sacrifice.”
That sacrifice is not something taken lightly. Sometimes, it’s a sacrifice from home. Muri has four children with his wife; he recalls that he was absent for much of the first 14 years of their marriage. He also remembers a very different type of sacrifice — one that all too many service members can relate to.
“The Air Force is much safer than it used to be, but I was unfortunately in a squadron that lost three different aircrafts…”
“19 of my fellow aviators were killed,” Muri said. “To lose friends is hard; the people that you fly with all of a sudden are not coming home.”
Death is a very real aspect of service in combat. It’s one of the most difficult things that men and women in uniform are faced with. The comradery of the military is what binds it together so tightly, and also what makes this loss so painful. Its impact is felt by Muri and many others like him, who will carry it with them for the rest of their lives.
The U.S. Air Force has revolutionized the way that our military operates. It is the swiftest tactical force available, ready to deploy anywhere at a moment’s notice. Today, honor the Americans who serve and have served. Be thankful for their selfless defense of our nation, for their unrivaled commitment, and for their sacrifice.
Retired Lt. Col. Dick Muri
“Air Force Birthday.” Military.com, Cody Underwood, www.military.com/air-force-birthday.