Fifty years ago we were well into our final year at the Air Force Academy. We had survived basic cadet summer, doolie year, academic, military and athletic challenges. We had our class rings and were finally first classmen. We suffered and celebrated through much together but were shaped over those years by the values of integrity, honor, excellence, brotherhood and service. Our time together changed us and made us different from who we were when we first arrived. We grew, but we really had no idea what lay ahead. The Viet Nam War was in its early stages. We did not know that our class would ultimately lose nineteen members in that conflict - more than any other class. We did not know that Lance Sijan would die as a POW a few short years later or that three other classmates would also become POWs. We did not know that Mike Ryan would eventually be Chief of Staff. There was much that we did not know. So after graduation we each went our separate ways into that uncertain future, but we were bound and guided by the values we learned and life experiences we had shared during those four years. And whatever success we achieved in the intervening years is in some significant part attributable to what we learned at USAFA together.
We now approach our fiftieth reunion. It is a time to consider all we received from the Academy and how we give back. The class officers, the fund raising committee, and the reunion organizers have come up with a project that we feel embodies the values we share and gives to the Academy a lasting tribute to our class as we represented those values. I will describe that project in more detail below, but I am writing to ask each of you to contribute to it.
The class officers, our fund raising committee, and our reunion organizers have all spent substantial time assessing and refining our project. Our gift will be a wall along side the South East Asia (SEA) Pavilion on the Heritage Trail, near Dolittle Hall, which honors the courage, determination and sacrifice of the POWs by highlighting the story of Capt. Lance Sijan, our classmate and the Academy's only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Additionally inside the SEA Pavilion we will construct a widescreen display which continuously runs the movie we were instrumental in creating with our 25th reunion gift, "Return with Honor". Click here for a link to the detailed description of our fiftieth reunion gift.
The project is estimated to cost $800,000, but we are seeking to raise $1 million for our reunion project to cover possible contingencies and ongoing maintenance of the wall and display. The inimitable and dedicated Flash Wiley has agreed to chair the fund raising committee. He is ably assisted on the committee by Terry Drabant, Howell Estes, Mike Ryan and Dick Schlosberg. Flash and his committee have organized a group and squadron approach to reach out and seek your support for our Class of '65 gift to the Academy. You will be contacted by your squadron representative shortly.
The good news is that a group of twenty-one classmates and one widow (including all of your class officers, all of the fund raising committee and reunion organizers) have already committed $500,000, half of the amount needed. We are now challenging the rest of the class to contribute the remaining $500,000. It is our hope that each one who is able will contribute at least $1,000. Also we are hoping that some of us will choose to donate for those classmates who are no longer with us. I ask that each of you consider the value you have received from the Academy and give back as generously as you are able. I look forward to seeing each of you at the reunion in the fall of 2015.
Class of 1965