Veteran Bob Chadwick captivated his audience of marching band students at Rochelle Township High School last month.
The former U.S. Air Force pilot shared some of what the students might see and experience during their trip to Washington, D.C. last month. The 1966 alumnus of RTHS also talked about the loss of two close friends, Richard Christy II and Michael Blassie. Both men were shot down while piloting their aircrafts during the Vietnam war.
Chadwick’s great-great uncle Eugene Chadwick died during his service in the Civil war.
RTHS band director Ron Duval knew about Chadwick’s losses and asked if he could share his perspective with the students before they embarked to the nation’s capital.
“I spoke with them, told them how jealous I was, and all the wonderful things they would see. I gave them my stories, about my friends and my uncle, because those are three stories that mean a lot to me. They had stories. They were real people, good people, dutiful people who gave their lives for the country,” he said. “I told them when they see things, the monuments, the memorials and when they go to Arlington Cemetery and see the thousands of graves, every one of them has a story. They had a family, they were good people and they were dedicated.”
After graduating from RTHS, Chadwick enrolled in the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado for four years followed with pilot training in Texas. From there he was assigned to Castle Air Force Base in California as part of the Strategic Air Command, piloting a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, which is a military aerial refueling aircraft. Chadwick explained the role of the SAC was primarily for the cold war going on at the time. His squadron was on stand-by; in the event of a nuclear war, their mission was to get the B-52 bombers as far along the designated routes, refueling when necessary.
“Fortunately, we never had to do that,” Chadwick reflected. “We always had to practice, it was also during the Vietnam War. We were called upon to provide planes and pilots and crews for different operations in southeast Asia.”
Chadwick experienced several memorable moments, admitting his favorite aspect of his military service was meeting people. He also enjoyed the missions.
Would he do it again if given the chance?
“When you are 18 years old — that’s when I made that decision. I went to the academy and got four years of education, but at age 18 you don’t think you are making lifelong decisions,” Chadwick said. “I don’t regret the decision I made at all. There were a number of schools I looked at. It was a good experience. Knowing what I know now, I would take the same course. That combined with family, faith, friends and experiences, no matter what they are, they have helped shaped me.”
He also shared about the discipline and the importance of duty, referring to a quote by Robert E. Lee that he had to memorize — “Duty is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never do less.”
“That quote brings you to a patriotism that I am not sure I would have had if not for my experiences in the Air Force,” Chadwick said. “We all have duties we have to fulfill in our different roles in life. I think the academy was pretty good at trying to instill a sense of duty. Either towards the squadron, the pilots and later on in life to family and every other person or entity you are working or dealing with, it carries over.”
Chadwick comes from a long line of military personnel; his grandfather during World War II, both great-grandfathers and his great-great uncle in the Civil War. Chadwick’s parents, Paul and Ellie Chadwick, met during the second World War.
Chadwick talked about his passion for military history and more so how the Rochelle community honors veterans each year.
“I’ve always been very impressed and humbled and grateful for the attention that has turned to veterans by the people of Rochelle, particularly the schools. I think that’s a great thing, and a great tribute to our community,” he said. “I know all the veterans appreciate that and look forward to it.”
He also thinks about the family and people that have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“I knew the kids would have a good time on the trip, they are young, but I wanted them to remember on Veterans Day all those names, the crosses and the stars. They tell a story.”