Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport.
I spent Friday and Saturday last week moderating a special event at Fantasy of Flight, the site of Kermit Weeks’ personal aircraft collection, in Polk City, Florida. The two-day symposium was titled, “Triumph over Tragedy, Airmen in Captivity: The POW Experience.” And it was there that I was fortunate enough to meet and interact with four gentlemen who absolutely deserve every ounce of respect I can give them.
Their names are Rudy Froeschle, George Drew, Jack Cheppo, and Ben Griffin. I wish everyone could spend an afternoon with these remarkable men. Not because they are pilots (B-17, B-24, B-17, and P-51, respectively), not because they are a part of what Tom Brokaw called, “The Greatest Generation,” and not even because they are so willing to share their experiences as World War II POWs with the rest of us. I was taken with their sense of humanity, and their sincere attempts to care for and protect one another, as well as their open and honest explanations of their lives and the astoundingly rich kaleidoscope of events they have witnessed and participated in.
These are Americans in the best sense of the word. Yet, they all come from widely divergent backgrounds, and hail from states far removed from each other. But they share basic values that have served the rest of us well. It’s fair to say that we are all better off for their service, even if we never meet them. Because these are the boys who came running to help when their country needed them. They willingly risked everything in an attempt to fulfill their promise to do the best job they could. And they all experienced harrowing drama and mayhem on our behalf, as they shouldered their responsibilities in an attempt to do for others what many of us could not, or would not do for ourselves.
I would not suggest that the general aviation community should hold these four men, or their peers, up as examples of what giants of social and political change aviators can be. They are better than that, and we should be better than that, too. But I would suggest that we can all look at men like these and find at least a glimmer of their best attributes in ourselves. If they can stand up and be counted by putting their lives on the line for us — and they absolutely did just that — then it is reasonable for us to recognize the value of offering ourselves up for public service in considerably safer surroundings.
Some social and political change comes at the point of a gun. More commonly, the redirection of our political future comes at the ballot box, as a result of conversation, editorials, speeches, and long drawn-out campaigns for justice that focus on both the broad spectrum, and the fine details of our lives.
The determining factor that leads to success or failure is personal involvement. Which leads us to the question, How involved are you? Sure, you have an opinion. We all have opinions. If everyone with an opinion, a bone to pick, an issue to elaborate on, or a concern for the future stood up and took their turn at the podium in a public forum, we would all be better informed, better motivated, and better off.
So let me challenge you to ask yourself in an honest, meaningful way: How involved are you, really?
Each of us who wishes general aviation was better respected has the power to make that case publicly, outside the confines of the FBO, or the hangar. Every single one of us has the ability to let our candidates for public office know what we think, what we value, and what we’re looking for in a governor, senator, representative, or city councilman. Individually, we are many, but we are weak. And that is how we have traditionally presented our arguments – individually, and weakly. Collectively however, we are a power to be reckoned with. We can turn the tide if we apply ourselves as a unified machine, working toward a common goal.
So I ask again, How involved are you? How committed are you willing to be?
Election day is three weeks away. Time enough to make yourself known to your friends, neighbors, and the local newspaper’s editorial board.
Go ahead, make your case. Make a difference. There’s still time.
You can reach Jamie at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.