This is the conclusion to the commencement speech I delivered at Eagle Valley High School last Saturday. A power outage made it impossible for most people to hear the conclusion.
Since Monday was Memorial Day, I found it fitting to memorialize the memory of my deceased father.
Piece of Advice No. 6: A little story about my father. Many years ago, we were watching TV in glorious black and white. My father spent about eight years waiting until color TVs were affordable. The Great Depression does that to you.
The show was “Air Power,” one of those entertainments aimed at veterans of World War II. My dad was a gunner for B-17’s. He had flown more than 150 missions during the war. The show we were watching was about the Schweinfurt raid. I borrow a description from aviation history magazine “Schweinfurt translates as ‘pig ford’ or ‘pig crossing.” But it is unlikely that many of the 3,000 airmen who clambered into their B-17 Flying Fortresses during that cold, damp morning of October 14, 1943, gave much thought to the meaning of the word. For them, Schweinfurt meant only one thing: a killer town that was one of the most savagely defended targets along the aerial high road, above Hitler’s Third Reich.
It’s reputation was well-founded. Before the day was over, more than 600 of those airmen would be killed or captured, the future of the American daylight bomber offensive would be in doubt and Mission 115 to Schweinfurt would be known as ‘Black Thursday’ in Army Air Forces folklore.
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Out of the one -hundred planes that left that morning from my father’s group, five returned. Suddenly, my dad leapt up shouting, “I’ll be — look at that!” and “Watch the ball-turret Charlie!”
There it was — a mad, desperate, scramble; because the landing gear had been shot clean away. In a wink of an eye, the turret was scraped flat, only sparks, spraying across the tarmac, as the plane slid sideways. “That was me Charlie; that was me!” my dad said. I said, “You were awful lucky Dad.” Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, “When you face the moment of truth, you make your own luck!”
To the class of 2014 — Never be a victim of change. Leave here confident that you can, and indeed will, make your own luck.”
Since graduations are traditional and rife with superstition, we must have at least seven pieces of advice, so here is lucky number seven: You cannot get to the top buy sitting on your bottom. It’s time for you to get up — get that diploma — and get on with your life!
It has been an honor — thank you.
Charles A. Vogel, PhD
Eagle Valley High School