By Mark Nolte
Twenty-six BYU students entered active duty in the U.S. Air Force Monday as they took the oath of office from a high-ranking Air Force official.
The Air Force”s Chief of Staff, Gen. John Jumper, told the 26 newly commissioned second lieutenants and their families that today”s young servicemen and women are tomorrow”s heroes. He then administered the oath of office to the officers in the Harris Fine Arts Center.
“If you haven”t already, you are about to become part of something larger than yourself,” Jumper said to the 26 officers waiting to be commissioned.
Jumper”s stories of heroism often moved the audience of family, friends and fellow servicemen to cheers and applause.
Jumper told the story of Senior Airman Jason Cunningham, who lost his life in Afghanistan as he directed others to safety after their helicopter was shot down and surrounded by enemy fire.
Another hero, Jumper said, was Capt. Cherry, who led a successful fleet of aircraft into enemy territory during the Kosovo conflict to retrieve an F-117 Stealth Fighter pilot who had ejected from his jet.
“Make no mistake – if you believe like I do, they (past military heroes) are here with us today,” Jumper said. “Are we worthy? The answer is yes because of the people sitting on the stage behind me.”
Col. Roger Maher, detachment commander and an aerospace studies professor at BYU, left a blessing with the new officers, using his authority as an ecclesiastical leader.
Maher told the officers that if they remember who they are, the Lord will bless them, their way of life and the freedom of America.
The 26 BYU officers expressed little anxiety or fear after they took their oaths of office, even as Jumper made several references to the “current crisis” in Iraq.
“I”m just moving to a different phase of life, to something new,” said newly commissioned officer, Dan Meecham. “I”ve just had the dream to fly (jets) since I was little.”
Meecham, the first member in his family to serve in the Air Force, said his parents were very supportive.
George Cahoon, parent of recently commissioned Troy Lee Cahoon, was also supportive of his son”s decision to serve in the U.S. military.
“What makes me proud is that he is doing more than I did when I was in school,” George Cahoon said.
Despite the current conflict and loss of life associated with the war in Iraq, Nikki Root, aunt of newly commissioned John Root, said she supports her nephew”s decision to serve in the Air Force.
“We need God-fearing people in our military who are willing to give their all,” Nikki Root said.
Nikki Root is well acquainted with military service. When she was first married, Root did not want to deal with the stresses that came with her husband”s military service. But during her husband”s service, she learned to appreciate the role of the U.S. military and how to use her membership in the Church of Jesus Christ for unique service opportunities.
“They expect more from LDS personnel,” Nikki Root said. “If you do something wrong, they are really disappointed.”
Root said Jumper”s words resonated with her. She said her nephew and other officers who share his beliefs will have special opportunities to serve and do missionary work while serving in the Air Force.