By Senior Airman Hailey Haux, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs Command Information
WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force maintains a special portrait display in the Pentagon as part of its commitment to honoring the devotion and service of veterans. Volume VI will replace volume V of the Veterans in Blue project this November.
The project started in 2010 as a way to honor pioneers of the Air Force, and has continued to honor Airmen like former Capt. John M. Hayes, now the 24th Congressional District of Texas military and veterans affairs liaison, who recently toured the display.
“It’s pretty impressive and amazing to be part of this group,” Hayes said. “It brings back a lot of Air Force memories -- the training and leadership and a lot of values that actually last through today.”
The project, run by the Air Force Public Affairs Agency, is in its sixth year and has told 144 Air Force veterans’ stories. The 1st Combat Camera Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, will debut this year’s program.
Volume VI will feature leaders in government, multiple industry CEOs, Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, as well as veterans from World War II, the Korea and Vietnam wars, and many others who continue making an impact on society long after their Air Force careers are finished.
“Veterans in Blue is a program which connects the past with the present,” said Larry Clavette, the director of the Air Force Public Affairs Agency. “This year’s program will also feature many veterans telling their stories via video to compliment the classic photo and biography each veteran has had in the past. It’s a truly unique program which shows our Airmen, both past and present, they are and were part of Air Force history and contributed to making our organization great. This program is a guiding path for future generations of Airmen to remember, and honor, their past.”
Displayed in a busy corridor of the Pentagon, the Veterans in Blue selectees’ portraits often gain the attention of passersby who read the short stories of a few veterans.
“I’ve read a lot of the stories and they are really informative of all the significant things these people have done,” said Army Col. Linda Kotulan, an Army service representative to the Defense Business Board. “All these people aren’t all generals or senior leaders, but that’s important because it shows the breadth of the Air Force population.”
The Veterans in Blue mission states the legacy of veterans continues to grow to this day as the Air Force builds a future Airmen will be proud to lead and serve in.
“This is very important, not only for Air Force publicity, but it’s also good to recognize the veterans who are a big part of my life now, too,” said Hayes, who served in Vietnam, flew 166 combat missions and earned a Distinguished Flying Cross. “We can’t do enough for our veterans, especially when you emphasize the Air Force part in these veterans’ lives … and in mine.”
Past Veterans in Blue selectees include Airmen such as Buzz Aldrin, the second person to set foot on the moon; World War II veterans like Doolittle Raider Richard Cole; and Medal of Honor recipients such as George “Bud” Day.
Also among some of the finest and most courageous are veterans such as retired Maj. Suzanne LaForest, medical; retired Senior Master Sgt. Peter Karpawitz-Godt, supply; and former Tech. Sgt. Tap Gaoteote, aircraft armament systems.
“I’ve wanted to see this for a long time,” Hayes said, taking a quick glance at his portrait on the wall. “Looking at it on the computer is something different than actually seeing it in person. It’s very impressive, and I got to visit the Pentagon and as a military veteran’s liaison for my congressman, it’s always important for me to visit with my contacts here. But this is just a special treat to see this.”
Although nominations for Veterans in Blue Volume VI have already been submitted, this is an annual project. Nominations for Volume VII are now open and will be submitted next year through Air Force public affairs offices around the world.