Thank a veteran
Lone Peak High, Big Sky community celebrate Veterans Day
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Tate Tatum admitted he was a little nervous as he addressed the crowd gathered in the Lone Peak High School gymnasium during the annual Veterans Day Assembly.
“Usually, when I talk to a room this big, it’s full of ‘doolies,’ what we call freshman, and they kind of have to be impressed with me,” Tatum explained to the students and teachers of his alma mater who lined the bleachers.
The young Cadet needn’t have worried. His speech highlighted his days in the Academy, from first experiences as he met his dormmates and had his head shaved, wondering why he chose to go directly to school rather than enjoy a leisurely summer after graduating from LPHS.
He described early morning drills and grueling physical training, but also the sense of pride he felt as his father watched him take the Cadet’s Oath of Allegiance, right hand raised high.
“I remember thinking that it was pretty cool what I was doing, that I was signing up to serve our nation and support the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
But things really got real, Tatum said, this summer when he led a squadron of more than 150 Basic Cadets. When he experienced that group of young cadets standing behind him with their hands raised for that same oath he had taken a few years prior, he truly felt the weight of his decisions and actions.
“They were going to basically follow me, someone they didn’t know… but they were going to follow me into what has basically hell for six weeks,” said Tatum, who will graduate from the Academy in May 2019 with plans to enroll in pilot training in the fall, hoping to be assigned as a fighter pilot when it’s all said and done. “I was pretty humbled to realize I had 150 people behind me that were willing to do that.”
Tatum went on to explain that cadets are often required to wear uniforms.
“We will have people come up to us, and say, ‘Hey, thank you for your service, we appreciate what you do,’ which is definitely a weird place to be as a cadet,” he said. “Because up until this point all I’ve ever done, is basically take some hard classes… but I’ve never been in combat or served in a war… done anything that special.”
The soon-to-be-graduated cadet then turned to the veterans seated in front of him and said, “But you people have.”
Tatum explained the veterans at the assembly are the ones who really deserve gratitude, inviting the students in attendance to shake the hands of the vets as they headed back to finish out their classes for the day, “Because they’ve done a lot for you, to make sure that you’re safe, and that you’ll always be safe.”
Returning to that odd encounter he’d had as he was thanked for his service as a cadet, Tatum recalled a time when he was out golfing. There was an old man sitting by the fairway wearing a veteran hat. So Tatum went up to him and thanked him for his service. The man looked at him, a confused look in his eye and actually thanked Tatum back, that being the first time he’d ever been thanked for his service.
“It really struck me, that in 40 years, no one had ever thanked him for what he had done,” said Tatum. “I think it’s easy for us to take for granted, to see someone in a veteran hat, and think that someone has already thanked them today, but we need to stop, take the five seconds, and thank them for what they have done.”