‘These things we do that others may live’

People talk about life-changing experiences and I think I’ve had one of those recently. My son Creed received an incredible military honor, the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor, two weeks ago in California, and I still haven’t come off a cloud of pride. It’s been surreal!

For starters, I wasn’t prepared for the press. The Flying Cross is a major Air Force Award; it was first given to Charles Lindbergh, and very few pilots and crew members have received it since then. The award and the battle in Afghanistan that earned Creed and his flight companions the honor have been covered in both the military press and civilian press. Here KFOX-TV covered it (visit www.kfoxtv.com and search under “el paso native awarded rare honor”), El Paso Times put it on their front page last week, and three California TV stations aired stories on it. Even I have been interviewed about what it’s like to be the mother of a hero. 

Our family has been in a happy state of celebration and pride. I was so proud, I made “Superhero” T-shirts for all of the family members who went to California for the awards ceremony. You know me – always have to have a fashion tie-in. Creed joked that if I get any royalties from these T-shirts, he wants a cut!

His award, given for “heroism or extraordinary achievement,” has left me humbled and more than a little shook up. It’s hard to come face to face with the danger he has been in fighting in Afghanistan. Denial had been my friend during his three deployments, but now it is very sobering to know that he was yards from heavy enemy fire and rocket-powered grenades.

 It’s not an accident that Creed is a helicopter rescue pilot. The motto of the Pedros, as the U.S. Air Force Search and Rescue forces are called, is “These things we do that others may live.”  This is fitting with Creed’s past. As a student at the Air Force Academy, he once spent an entire night out in the frozen Colorado cold working to rescue a roommate in trouble. 

 The November 1 Air Force Times piece on him and his crew ( www.airforcetimes.com/article/20131101/NEWS/311010014/HH-60-pilot-awarded-Distinguished-Flying-Cross-December-rescue) had a powerful impact on me. The reporter wrote that during the high-risk mission to rescue critically wounded Coalition soldiers, Captain Napier and his team protected more than 25 soldiers on the battlefield while taking enemy fire. Another article noted that the crew acted with complete disregard for their own safety to maneuver the aircraft between the enemy and friendly forces.

Creed has been characteristically unassuming and modest during all of this. After all the publicity and interviews of the past few weeks, I had a few questions of my own. What did flying this particular mission mean to Creed? What did he do that another airman in his position might not have chosen to do?  What made him choose to go back into the anti-aircraft fire? 

Creed said that in one sense he is lucky that his job has something other jobs don’t have: a built-in special motivation on every flight that they are helping people in desperate need. He finds that highly rewarding. Creed said this was not the first time he was shot at during a mission, but it was the first time he was in combat as an aircraft commander responsible for weapons and shooting at the enemy. “After the fact, we realized we did something well despite all the odds.  I guess it’s true that another crew might have stood off more and not accepted as much risk.”

 It’s difficult to realize the extreme danger our military kids face on a regular basis. I’m amazed at the decisions that Creed’s had to make in the midst of an emergency and chaos. And I’m so proud that he grew up to be an amazing leader with such character, courage, and humility. I feel blessed.  I am in tears thinking about it, once again.

 Thank you so much to all who have extended their good wishes, expressions of pride, and congratulatory messages.

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