The North American B-25 Mitchell was a twin-engine, medium bomber manufactured by North American Aviation. It was used by many Allied Air Forces as well as many other air forces after the war ended. Remarkably, it saw service across four decades. The B-25 was named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, a pioneer of U.S. military aviation. Armed with up to ten, 50-calibere machine guns and capable of dropping more than 3,000 pounds of bombs, the B-25 saw action in every World War II Theater.
This past weekend I was privileged to tour an original B-25. Standing next to the nose turret I could imagine the gunner and bombardier riding out front, exposed and alone as he took aim through his bomb site. I was able to stand on the ladder the pilot and co-pilot used to ascend to their seats. I looked into the bomb bay and marveled at the narrow space left along the fuselage for the tail gunner to crawl into position. I could imagine the roar of the engines and the explosive pops of the guns as they spit out their deadly fire. I touched the now silent machine guns and envisioned the explosive force the aircraft could deliver.
Then it struck me: these war machines were no better or worse than the men who manned them. It was their bravery and skill that made the B-25 such an awesome fighting craft. The young men who risked their lives every time they flew a mission were the real force of the plane.
So it is today. It is not about the armaments; it is about the heart of the men. Since the time of the B-25, man has developed weapons that can now inflict damage never before seen in history. But it is still the man behind the weapon that remains the most vital part.
Today, I am thankful for the men who flew and fought in the B-25.
I am also thankful for the men and women today who risk their lives in the daily fight that allows me to live in a land of freedom, which remains the envy of the world. They serve in police cars, fire trucks, ambulances and as first-responders to disasters. They are deployed in dangerous situations across oceans and continents far from home. They work on military bases throughout the world.
At home here in the United States, these men and women carry these traditions forward. They live lives of simple honesty and persistent courage -- faithfully raising their children, assisting their communities, and giving their best to their employers.
I pray we all may be found so willing to make this country the best that it can be.