Saturday, July 27, 2013
A Shiny Nickel on the Grass - Colonel Bud Day
A great American hero passed away today. A really great American. Colonel Bud Day crossed the fence for a final time early this morning in Florida. I had always meant to meet him, but he became sick before I could do so. I read his book, Return With Honor, and I had the privilege of reading email correspondence from him to currently serving powerful flag officers who were not doing the right thing. As an attorney, he continued to battle on behalf of airmen and other Americans. Colonel Day didn't leave his courage on the battlefield. Principle was more than a box simply to be checked.
He is truly a hero of mine. Not only did he brave combat and keep his integrity intact and provide a role model for courage on the battlefield over the skies of Vietnam, and in a POW camp for a great many years, but at home he continued to display courage by calling out those he served with who failed when truly tested. That is a real service, and a costly one. People in our business need to know when they are failing, and they don't typically like that feedback.
Colonel Bud Day shamed cowards he served with, even as the service rewarded and promoted them.
More than that, he continued as a lawyer to fight the good fight for America. Colonel Day was the primary reason that service members have Tricare and any medical at all. When the military began cutting retired medical benefits, he and his peers challenged the establishment in court and objected when promises of free health care for life were broken. He lost in court, not because he wasn't right, but rather because a military that gave false promises wasn't legally required to keep those promises. He turned his legal fight into a political fight, and all of us owe him a debt of gratitude for having a retiree health plan.
Colonel Day, a towering figure and the pinnacle of combat accomplishment, the most decorated military man alive, was also approachable by the lowliest cadet or lieutenant. The Colonel was humble, loved air power, loved freedom, hated communism, and worked to strengthen America in multiple facets of his life. He was tireless with his wife, who he affectionately called "the Viking," on his side.
He spent more than five years being tortured in a Vietnamese POW camp after multiple escape attempts, and he never broke. Any honest man may love him or hate him, agree or disagree with his politics, share his prejudices and passions or not, but no man can deny that Colonel Day was a truly great American.
This blog post is a drunken late night tribute, and is nowhere close to touching on the greatness of this warrior. America lost a great Air Force officer today. His courage is legendary, both in combat abroad, and at home where our Constitution is the most threatened. Colonel Day was the real deal, and the rest of us should ever try as best we can, to emulate his example, and to risk ourselves for our nation. It's unlikely we will ever be tested as Colonel Day was, which is why it's so important that we not fail the easy tests. We are in the business of courage. Colonel Bud Day has shown us the way.