Delivered at The Heritage Foundation on May 16, 2018, for the E.W. Richardson building dedication.
Well, as long as I have the microphone, I did want to say if you want a reason why you should invest in The Heritage Foundation, all you have to do is look at Kim Holmes. For 15 years, this guy has been my friend and my mentor. I mean, people like him that live in this place who fight every day to make this country free, safe, and prosperous, it’s just an honor to know him. Thanks for being up here.
E.W. would not want us to be here without recognizing who brought us here. So I want to read a prayer. E.W. didn’t write this prayer. It was written by Captain Herbert Bloch, but as I understand every time E.W. got behind the cockpit there and he had nine lives behind him and he was going into harms way that he would read this prayer before he went on a mission. So if you would join with me in bowing your heads.
Oh, God. Thou who has created the heavens and the earth, and in thy natural way has made it possible for man to sustain himself in flight through the air: We ask again thy blessings on these men as they go out to fly high in the sky. Grant them courage to do a good job. Protect them against the assaults of the enemy, and may their faith be their unfaltering in thee. We pray it so in the name of him who has given us power over all things of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.
Rich would be the first guy to stand up and tell you that his was not the greatest generation. It’s not. Every generation of Americans is the greatest generation. From the guys that froze their butt off in Valley Forge to kids that are walking around in Afghanistan today, they’re all great. Every one of them, men and women, put their lives on the line for you. But Rich’s generation was the generation that was called to arms at Americans’ greatest hour of need. If they had not done their duty and won that day there, we would not be sitting here having a conversation about the future of freedom. Now not only is Rich gone but most of them are gone—but not all of them.
We have one World War II veteran here today that I would like to introduce you to. Colonel Darrel Smith entered the U.S. Air Force, the Army Air Force, in 1943. He, like Rich, was a B24 Liberator pilot. He, like Rich, flew at the great 15th Air Force. He, like Rich, flew out of Southern Italy on really some of the most daring and dangerous bomber flying in the history of air warfare, and he, like Rich, had good days and October 13th, 1944 was not one of them. Colonel Smith’s plane was hit by a German aircraft artillery fire. Unable to get back to the base, the crew bailed out. He was the last one out of the plane. He was captured and was a prisoner of war until he was liberated in 1945, when the Russians overran the compound and liberated him, and thankfully gave him back to us, which was kind of nice.
Rich went off and did amazing things. Colonel Smith went on to serve 32 years in the American Air Force. He was married for 73 years. He raised three children. He is the grandfather of 12. He is the great grandfather of seven. He is the great great grandfather of two. The recipient of the Legion of Merit Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in saying thank you for your service to Colonel Smith.
Well, so Colonel Smith, I’m retired Army. I hope that’s okay. I’m also the E.W. Richardson fellow. Dr. Patrice Richardson wanted me to remind you of that. But in the military we had a tradition and we have this tradition here also at The Heritage Foundation. It’s called the challenge coin. So you meet someone that you love and respect and honor, you present them a coin that represents the unit and everything you stand for. So on behalf of the E.W. Richardson fellow and Heritage Foundation, we would like to present you the E.W. Richardson coin.
Just really briefly, I know we’ve talked a lot about Rich’s service, but you just have to pause and think if you’re 18 years old and you’re wearing a uniform, and I was one of them, you think you’re going to live forever. You do all kinds of wacky and crazy things and don’t worry about it. The kids that flew in a bomber crew that were 18 and 19 and 21 years old, they thought they were going to die. They had no illusion that they were ever going to come back and see their family again. They had the highest casualty rate of any American that fought in combat. When we think of the danger of combat, we think about Colonel Smith getting shot down or Captain Richardson getting shot down, but that was a small fraction of the terror that was likely to kill somebody. You could die taking off. You could die trying to land. You could die bumping into another plane. You could fly into a mountain. If you got up here, you were freezing at 20,000 feet.
I think once you get to 20,000 feet, isn’t that as cold as it’s going to get. But you’re literally freezing. Patty and I were talking that if you had a bare hand and you touched the metal frame on the plane at 20,000 feet, the skin was coming off. You were on oxygen. It was an incredibly difficult physical trial, and really almost to the limits of human endurance and experience and you did that every time you got up in a plane. Some people 45 times. That’s just unbelievable what they went through.
As much as we talk about Rich and his World War II career, we forget about the whole rest of his life, which is just as much about the American experience. That he came back and he believed in serving his country, and he believed in just a couple of things. He believed in faith. He believed in his family. He believed in free enterprise. He fought for those things, and he spent the rest of his life living it and making sure that everybody he touched and his family or anybody else understood that and was part of that. So when you talk about being dedicated to making America free, safe, and prosperous, this man lived that dream. We here, we get that. I mean, I’ve often said, and I know I speak for everybody here at Heritage, when Kim said, “Well what does this mean to us?” We know why we’re here because people have faith in us to go out and do the right thing. That is a pressure and obligation we feel every single day. We love that pressure and that obligation. So to have that kind of honor and that kind of commitment is it just says more than you can mean.
But I didn’t want to just leave it by talking about the military career because some people who work in the defense realm, some people are going to work in other areas, in healthcare and welfare and education and public service. It’s not just the people who stay here and work here like Kim has dedicated his entire professional life to The Heritage Foundation, except for that brief, unfortunate stint in the State Department.
There are a number of young people that will go through here. Some of them will be interns, some of them will come back and serve at Heritage, some of them go off and do other things. The whole intern experience is so integral that of course as you know that the new building is where we’re going to house our interns.
I want to introduce a young lady right that to talk about what that part of Heritage really means and what the building really means. Noelani Bonifacio is originally from Hawaii. So she was in Hawaii and then she came here. So we have to think about that one for a second. She graduated from that fashion of conservative font of great conservative men and women, the University of Hawaii. She interned at the tough place. She interned in policy promotion where they do everything all the time, do amazing standards, and the interns get worked to death. If you think of that picture in Ben-Hur, with Charlton Heston at the oars, that’s pretty much the intern experience in policy promotion. And she lived in the Johnson Building during her internship. She currently works for the House Republican study committee as a professional policy staffer, and her portfolio includes education, labor, transportation, infrastructure, and natural resources. So we’ve asked her to come talk for a few minutes about her experience at Heritage.
Please join with me in welcoming her to the stage.