First year cadets at the Air Force Academy are allowed to leave the Academy
without penalty up through the end of first-year Christmas break. Those who
came back were assigned to write a paper on why they chose to return.
Here is one young cadet's masterpiece, which has begun to be widely
Why return to the Air Force Academy after Winter Break?
So after our sunburns have faded and the memories of our winter break have
been reduced to pictures we've pinned on our desk boards, and once again
we've exchanged T-shirts and swim suits for flight suits and camouflage,
there still remains the question that every cadet at U.S.Air Force Academy
in Colorado Springs has asked themselves at some point: Why did we come
back? Why, after spending two weeks with our family would we return to one
of the most demanding lifestyles in the country? After listening to our
'friends' who are home from State or Ivy League schools chock full of wisdom
about how our war in Iraq is unjust and unworldly, why would we return? And
after watching the news and reading the papers which only seem to condemn
the military's every mistake and shadow every victory, why would we continue
to think it is worth the sacrifice of a normal college life?
Is it because the institution to which we belong is tuition- free?
Anyone who claims this has forgotten that we will, by the time we graduate,
repay the US taxpayer many times over in blood, sweat, and tears. Is it
because the schooling we are receiving is one of the best undergraduate
educations in the country? While the quality of the education is second to
none, anyone who provides this as a main reason has lost sight of the
awesome responsibility that awaits those who are tough enough to graduate
and become commissioned officers in the U.S. Air Force.
I come back to the Academy because I want to have the training necessary so
that one day I'll have the incredible responsibility of leading the sons and
daughters of America in combat. These men and women will never ask about my
Academy grade point average, their only concern will be that I have the
ability to lead them expertly; I will be humbled to earn their respect. I
come back to the Academy because I want to be the commander who saves lives
by negotiating with Arab leaders... in their own language.
I come back to the Academy because, if called upon, I want to be the pilot
who flies half way around the world with three mid-air refuelings to send a
bomb from 30,000 feet into a basement housing the enemy... through a
ventilation shaft two feet wide. Becoming an officer in today's modern Air
Force is so much more than just command; it is being a diplomat, a
strategist, a communicator, a moral compass, but always a warrior first.
I come back to the Air Force Academy because, right now, the United States
is fighting a global war that is an 'away game' in Iraq - taking the fight
to the terrorists.
Whether or not we think the terrorists were in Iraq before our invasion,
they are unquestionably there now. And if there is any doubt as to whether
this is a global war, just ask the people in Amman, in London, in Madrid, in
Casablanca, in Riyadh, and in Bali.
This war must remain an away game because we have seen what happens when it
becomes a home game... I come back to the Academy because I want to be a
part of that fight.
I come back to the Academy because I don't want my vacationing family to
board a bus in Paris that gets blown away by someone who thinks that it
would be a good idea to convert the Western world to Islam.
I come back to the Academy because I don't want the woman I love to be the
one who dials her last frantic cell phone call while huddled in the back of
an airliner with a hundred other people seconds away from slamming into the
I come back to the Academy because during my freshman year of high school I
sat in a geometry class and watched nineteen terrorists change the course of
history live on television. For the first time, every class currently at a
U.S. Service Academy made the decision to join after the 2001 terror
Some have said that the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan only created
more terrorists... I say that the attacks of September 11th,
2001 created an untold more number of American soldiers; I go to school with
4,000 of them. And that's worth more than missing a few frat parties.
Joseph R. Tomczak Cadet, Fourth Class United States Air Force Academy "
(U.S. Senator Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) had Cadet Tomczak's essay read into
the Congressional Record, and at a meeting of the Air Force Academy Board of
Visitors he presented Cadet Tomczak with a framed copy of the essay.)