Service and Sacrifice

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. -- Capt. James Kindel served at AEDC from 1961-1964, in what was then the Development Division.

A mechanical engineer and trained Air Force B-47 pilot, Kindel was recalled while at AEDC to fly the O-1 Birddog as a forward air controller in Vietnam. Flying low and slow over Vietnam on Dec. 14, 1965, small arms fire brought down his O-1 and killed him instantly. Kindel was the only AEDC officer killed in action in the Vietnam War.

Brig. Gen. Lee Gossick, then commander of AEDC, dedicated the circular drive in front of the AEDC headquarters in honor of Kindel on June 8, 1966. As you enter that circle, there is also a small memorial in memory of Kindel, and that is where I met his family in August.

Kindel’s wife, daughter and two sons, plus their families, returned to Arnold to remember a lost husband and father. They arrived at the memorial holding back tears, and I thanked them for his service and the family’s sacrifice. I also told them that when I turn that corner every morning I’m greeted by Kindel’s memorial, and it reminds me why we serve at AEDC.

First, when I turn that corner, I think of the legacy of those who have gone before us. Whether it’s the Kindel Memorial, the F-4 Phantom sitting outside the gate, or simply driving to work on Wattendorf Memorial Highway, there are reminders all around us of those who have served before us, some who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Second, I think about what we do for those after us. That could be one of our fellow Airmen who flies into combat tomorrow with an AEDC-developed and tested system or that could be our children who live free because they still are guarded by the most technologically advanced Air Force in the world on its 100th birthday in 30 years. This is why we serve at AEDC, and Kindel reminds me of that every day.

We’ve all made a choice to serve in AEDC, whether in uniform or in the government or as a contractor. All of us serve, and our nation is counting on us to develop a technologically superior force for all of our services.

Although the Kindel’s didn’t tell me this directly, I know that they are counting on us to remember our legacy and to defend our nation with the knowledge that we have a proud heritage, steeped in sacrifice. I have no doubt we’re up to the challenge.