Tuesday, June 23, 2009

When we are quick to judge, we must be quick to apologize

I have started to listen to the Dr. Laura show on my drive home from work. Most of the time I think that this woman is too harsh and blunt with her callers, but I guess that's what she feels she needs to do. It's her show, she can do what she wants. And I still listen...Anyway. At the beginning of her show today she shared something that moved me to tears. I have verified this on snopes.com and it is true. The following letter appeared in the Arizona Republic on June 23 2005:

Dear Editor
Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the morning air show? Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune! Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns early bird special? Any response would be appreciated.

A few days later, this letter appeared in the same newspaper:

Regarding "A wake-up call from Luke's jets" (Letters, Thursday): On June 15, at precisely 9:12 a.m., a perfectly timed four-ship flyby of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy Fresques.
Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May30, Memorial Day. At 9 a.m. on June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend. Based on the letter writer's recount of the flyby, and because of the jet noise, I'm sure you didn't hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their son's flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have endured. A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. The letter writer asks, "Whom do we thank for the morning air show?" The 56th Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus CO 63rd Fighter Squadron
Luke AFB

WOW eh? By the time Dr. Laura was finished reading this letter, I was crying. While the first part of this story is humbling and a realization that we don't always know the full story, I think the lesson comes in what Dr. Laura did not share. The writer of the first letter wrote another letter to the editor in response to Lt. Col. Pleus' letter. I found it on snopes.com:

I read with increasing embarrassment and humility the response to my unfortunate letter to The Republic concerning an Air Force flyby ("Awake-up call from Luke's jets," Letters, June 23).I had no idea of the significance of the flyby, and would never have insulted such a fine and respectful display had I known.I have received many calls from the fine airmen who are serving or have served at Luke, and I have attempted to explain my side and apologized for any discomfort my letter has caused. This was simply an uninformed citizen complaining about noise.I have been made aware in both written and verbal communications of the four-ship flyby, and my heart goes out to each and every lost serviceman and woman in this war in which we are engaged. I have been called un-American by an unknown caller and I feel that I must address that. I served in the U.S. Navy and am a Vietnam veteran. I love my country and respect the jobs that the service organizations are doing. Please accept my heartfelt apologies.

This man, obviously humiliated, had the courage and the humility to publicly admit that he was at fault and to tried to make things right. If it was me, I probably would have moved to Vermont and changed my name! I commend and admire this man for his courage and hope that I can apply this lesson in my life.

1 comment:

CS said...

wow, that's quite a story. humbling for us all to read. i lived near an air force base and occasionally we'd get loud fighter jets peeling above our house. it always startled me (and had the dog running for cover under the table), but i would never, ever complain! sheesh. i'm also glad that the letter-writer apologized for the letter. i think we've all had stupid moments like that which we regret. sad he had to have it happen in a public forum, though he started it in a public forum!