Honoring Those Who Have Earned It
On this Veterans Day, America's New Generation of Patriots
“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” —Thomas Paine in “American Crisis” (1776)
Only time will tell whether last night’s stunning electoral outcome will be, in Thomas Paine’s words, a glorious triumph. But for the moment, our Constitutional Republic has been granted a reprieve.
Every four years, a presidential election occurs on the eve of Veterans Day. In preparing my commentary this week, I didn’t want to adulterate the esteem in which we hold our military Patriots with any mention of the just-concluded presidential election. However, my editors insisted I offer these observations…
The implications of this election for our executive, legislative and judicial branches — for constitutional Rule of Law versus its antithesis, rule of men, will have significant consequences for all Americans.
Over the last three quadrennial election cycles, the contrast has become ever more stark between the politicians who’ve duped the American people into electing them versus the warriors whom we honor this week. The strongest constitutionally conservative constituency in America is composed of Veterans and active duty military and their families. At no time in generations has the contrast between those who support Liberty with blood and life, and those who want to destroy it, been so striking.
For active duty military personnel and their families, this election cycle was more than just political fodder for debate — we have blood on the line. Veterans and their families want to know: Was their blood and sacrifice worth it or was it wasted?
Uniformed service personnel are required by law to honor their oaths “to Support and Defend” our Constitution, but there is no such legal mandate for elected officials, too many of whom disregard their oaths from their first day in office.
For the last eight years, the left has assailed our Patriots in uniform, and the cost as measured by military morale has been heavy. Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense from 2013 to 2015, noted that restoring military morale “starts at the top.”
Indeed, the very top.
Yesterday, I had the freedom, thanks to millions of Patriots who have gone before, to vote for presidential and congressional candidates. In each instance, I voted for the candidate who would best support our Constitution. Despite what seemed like insurmountable odds, this morning each of those candidates will be serving our nation in January.
I believe that incoming Commander in Chief, Donald Trump, will rise to the occasion. But as he said in his victory remarks at 0300 this morning, “While the campaign is over, our work on this movement is now really just beginning.” Indeed it is. And untangling eight years of the most invasive Socialist policies in our nation’s history will be very difficult and not something that will happen in one election cycle.
On a personal note, I am also relieved that the young Marine in our family will answer to a CINC who will extend to our men and women in uniform, and the Veterans who have served our great nation, honor and due respect.
All that being said, allow me to share with you the great news that a new generation of American Patriots is holding the line for Liberty. I’d like to tell you about two of them.
Ten years ago, my Veterans Day profile was dedicated to a mentor, Col. Roger Ingvalson, a fighter pilot and Vietnam POW. Roger passed away five years ago and was laid to rest next to his wingman.
This profile begins with the legacy of Roger’s wingman and best friend, LtC Wayne Fullam.
Wayne was missing in action in Vietnam after being shot down in 1967, a year before Roger was shot down, leaving his wife and family not knowing his fate. Wayne was MIA until his remains were recovered on September 24, 1987 and identified on December 4, 1987.
When Roger returned from Vietnam in 1973, after 1,742 days of torture, starvation, desolation, disease and one stretch of 20 months in strict solitary confinement, it was clear that his wingman Wayne had been killed in action. In a remarkable story of triumph over tragedy, a few years after his return, Roger married the wife of his lost wingman, Booncy, and they raised Wayne’s kids together.
Let me introduce you to two of Wayne’s grandsons, the sons of Mark and Nancy Fullam, who reflect the best of what our nation has to offer to the future. Haden and Jay Fullam are honoring the Air Force legacy of both their grandfather Wayne and step-grandfather Roger (“Poppy”), and of course their grandmother, Booncy Fullam Ingvalson.
I asked these young men to put into their words what that legacy means. It is inspirational!
Haden Fullam, age 28:
Kids need to have heroes — those larger than life figures who are so inspiring and influential, you can only dream of being like that person, much less meeting them one day. You grow up wanting to be like your heroes and you emulate their behavior and actions. To most, those influential characters are super heroes, athletes, celebrities, or historical figures. Mine was a grandfather I never knew, Wayne Fullam.
I always grew up listening to stories about him, the sacrifices he made for his family, and this great nation. He was truly a larger-than-life figure, and the picture that my Grandmother and Poppy always painted of him was that of an American hero. His legend is the baseline that I compare everyone else to. He was good looking, an athlete, a Golden Gloves boxer, a fighter pilot, a American Patriot, a devoted family man, and a strong Christian. What is so incredible is that even today when my Grandmother talks about him, 48 years after he went down over North Vietnam, you can feel that eternally empty place in her heart and how completely head-over-heels in love with him she still is to this day.
As for Roger, “Poppy,” he was the hero you get to meet. He was the definition of a gentlemen and an Air Force Officer. I have never met someone in my life who was more proud to be an American. He is the kind of guy who makes being a fighter pilot cool. He was the definition of humble, loving, and honest, but he was also blunt. If you ever asked him who the best fighter pilot he ever knew was, he would tactfully and genuinely reply, “Other than me, Wayne Fullam.”
He is the strongest man I have ever met and will ever meet. To endure what he did and return with honor puts him and those like him truly in a class of their own. We are forever in debt to those who never provided aid or comfort to the enemy.
Ever since I was four years old, the only thing I have ever wanted to do was serve my country and fly fighters just like Poppy. He constantly encouraged me to pursue it and was so genuine when he would say, “I know what it takes to be a fighter pilot, and you have got what it takes.” When he said that, I always believed it.
The route I took to commission was through AFROTC at the University of Tennessee. After my Graduation/Commission in May of 2012, I went to Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, where I attended Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT). Once in the T-38, I was assigned to the 469th Flying Training Squadron, formerly the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in which was Grandfather Wayne’s squadron when he was killed in North Vietnam. From there I got my top choice of fighter aircraft, the A-10 Warthog. I attended the A-10 Initial Qualification Course at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, with the 47th Fighter Squadron. I finished as Top Gun and Distinguished Graduate of my class and then was assigned to the 75th Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB, Georgia. The 75th falls under the famous 23rd Fighter Group “Flying Tigers” of pre-WWII fame, the same place where Poppy finished his career after coming home flying the A-7D Corsair II out of England AFB, Louisiana.
My latest tour was over Iraq and Syria — I completed 63 combat missions in just shy of 450 hours.
Jay Fullam, age 26:
Grandfather Wayne and Poppy are genuine American heroes.
Countless Vietnam-era fighter pilots have told me that Wayne was the best fighter pilot they ever knew (something which the type-A fighter jocks don’t usually like to admit unless speaking of themselves). He was a loving father who raised his boys to be men and inspired them every day to do their best and never settle for less. When my dad speaks of my grandfather, there is a sense of rarified honor and respect. Wayne is a hero to many but no one in this world looks up to him more than his three sons — and now his grandsons as well.
I don’t know that there is anyone else in this world who could have filled the shoes of Wayne as well as Poppy did. Being the only grandfather on my dad’s side that I ever knew, he inspired me every day and still does to this day. Not a day goes by that I don’t stop and just have a little “talk” with my grandfathers, just to make sure they are keeping an eye on me.
At a young age, I never truly appreciated what Poppy had been through, although I thought he was the coolest grandfather ever. One of my favorite memories of Poppy was when I came home from the Air Force Academy and surprised him and my grandmother on her birthday. I was wearing my Service Dress uniform, as usual for travel then, and walked into their house to see them. The look of pride on both of their faces affirmed that I had made the right choice. But the best part was him giving me a big hug, offering a critical view on the shine of my low quarters. He then proceeded to tell me all the best tricks on how to properly shine my shoes.
Grandmother — now there is the true hero of the family. She is the glue that kept everything together through a devastating loss. She is the most loving person I have ever met and I know for a fact that no one in this family would be who they are or where they are without her unconditional love and support. I keep every voicemail she has ever left me, because if I am having a bad day I know that I can listen to her calls and take great comfort that she is in my corner. Despite the heartache she endured, she always has a contagious positive outlook on life.
The loss of Grandfather Wayne still weighs heavy on my dad. He lost his hero. But he and his brothers light up with pride to this day when speaking of him.
Like my brother Haden, from my earliest days, I always wanted to be a fighter pilot just like my grandfathers.
I took an unconventional route into the Air Force. I always wanted to go to the Air Force Academy but also wanted to play SEC football. I went to Vanderbilt to play football while doing NROTC (something that Roger never let me live down). I did that for two years and enjoyed my “real” college experience before starting all over at USAFA. After graduating in 2015, I completed pilot training and like Haden, am now flying A-10s. My wife, also a USAFA grad, is also an A-10 pilot.
Thank you to both Haden and Jay and their family! They are leaders of America’s new generation of Patriots.
In 1775, George Washington said of his generation of Patriots, “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country.”
But in the generations since, more than a million Patriots never returned from battle. We owe them and their families an enormous debt of gratitude for the Liberty they secured for us.
John 15:12-13 records these words from Jesus: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Wayne Fullam and Roger Ingvalson, and generations of Patriots, have done just that. We owe them a priceless debt of gratitude.
In 1808, another Patriot, John Adams, wrote, “Our obligations to our country never cease but with our lives.” For our current generation of American Patriots, that remains true. We are steadfast in our conviction that Liberty for all people is an eternal endowment by our Creator.
In 1918, the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month marked the cessation of World War I hostilities. That date is now designated in honor of our Veterans, and a focal point for national observance is the placing of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.
Let us never, ever forget.
On this Veterans Day, and every day of the year, may God bless our men and women in uniform, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coastguardsmen, who have stood and continue to stand in harm’s way. For their steadfast devotion to duty, honor and country, we, the American People, offer them and their families our humble gratitude and heartfelt thanks.
God bless America!
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis