Medal of Honor recipient salutes Fairchild - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Medal of Honor recipient salutes Fairchild

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. - Fairchild recently had an "opportunity to associate with an extraordinary individual," in the words of Col. Van Fuller, 92nd Mission Support Squadron commander. 1st Lt. (ret.) Vernon Baker, World War II veteran Medal of honor recipient, spoke to an applauding crowd at Club Fairchild Feb. 28 during the base's annual National African American/Black History Month Luncheon.

This year's luncheon commemorated Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African American author and scholar often called the "Father of Black History." Dr. Woodson's work stressed the importance of black Americans knowing their past as a building block for being productive and influential citizens today and tomorrow.

That message holds true across culture and race, a point Lieutenant Baker made clear when he spoke of past military sacrifices creating today's strong force.

"Sixty-three years ago, myself and several others, some of whom were your fathers, mothers, brothers aunts and uncles, made sacrifices that kept America free," said the lieutenant, who served from 1941 - 1968. "I am looking at some of the results of those sacrifices: you, the present and future leaders of our great armed forces."

The sacrifices he speaks of earned Lieutenant Baker the Bronze Star and
Distinguished Service Cross, and the Italian, French and Polish Crosses of Valor. President Bill Clinton presented him the Army Medal of Honor in 1997, and Lieutenant Baker is the now the sole surviving African American who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during World War II.

To understate the obvious, the veteran knows what it means to make sacrifices for country, to lead and follow during times of war, and to stay committed to the tasks associated with a military career - all traits that are still inherent in today's servicemembers, he said.

"It's gratifying to know there's no lack of love for duty and country," said Lieutenant Baker. "If the balloon goes up, you sitting here will be asked to stand in front to keep the dogs of war from devouring us ... There is no greater responsibility placed on any human being."

As a force, we can meet that responsibility even better by knowing our history and working as an integrated team.

"The diversity that we bring to the Air Force and to our country makes us all stronger," said Colonel Fuller. "Different points of view and different experiences, when you throw them together to mix a pot, put them in a recipe and shake it up a little bit, make us all stronger and better so that we can do those things in support of our country that are being asked of us during this time of war."

"I know, looking at the faces here today, that we are in good shape," continued Lieutenant Baker. "Leaders of our future America, I salute you."

by Staff Sgt. Connie L. Bias
92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

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