The Battle of Bedford Falls

The Battle of Bedford Falls was not an engagement between opposing armies. You won’t find a description on Wikipedia of a skirmish between volunteers, or even a guerilla action.  It was – and is – a long-running conflict.  It is the struggle described the 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” that’s become a staple of many families’ Christmas.

In the movie, George Bailey – a small town everyman who always puts others’ needs and the good of the community ahead of his own goals and dreams – is at the end of his rope, when he meets Clarence.  The story uses a WW II analogy, with Angel 2nd Class Clarence having not yet earned his wings, as he is sent to help George see the quiet leadership he has been providing in the ongoing, everyday Battle of Bedford Falls.  For many members of the community, George is their lifeline, although most of the time it is unrecognized. Through most of the movie, the things that happen to George are far from Wonderful, but when the chips are down, all of those that George has supported show up and come to his rescue.

2014 saw neither the beginning nor the end of the Battle of Bedford Falls.  Bedford Falls is a fictitious town in New York state, but this battle takes place all across the country, even in northwest Georgia.  And the battle continues to this day.

The holidays are a time when many of the young people who were part of our Boy Scout troop, the CAP squadron, and our foster home come by to say hello – which leads to a game of golf at 38 degrees or dinner or car repairs or laundry or whatever, and many times a fatherly chat. In one such conversation recently, when one of the boys was telling me about the new flower in his life, I got to see a lifeline like that in the movie.

I asked him if he knew his new flame’s phone number.  His response pleased and scared me.  Sir, he said, I only know your number, meaning our home phone.  This could be a case of a young man who can only remember one number, or that his reliance on technology has achieved a level that the numbers themselves are no longer important as long as they come up under his list of Contacts on his smartphone.  I got to wondering if this was just a fluke, so I did a short survey of the kids.  Question number one was, what is the phone number of your boy / girl friend.  The second question is what is the number for emergencies.  I called them from my cell phone, and 13 of the 15 young people I asked gave my home number as an emergency contact.

This was on my mind because my family, in our own battle, has been looking at the budget and finding a few items that we felt that we no longer needed.  One of them was that home phone line that we have had for over 20 years.  Since I work at home, the line has also seen service as a Fax and carried the DSL.  But our plan was to get rid of it by January.  So now I know that the number can’t go, otherwise these Pirates, Lost Souls and Thieves will have no one to call when the phone dies, they are out of money, in trouble or any number of things has gone wrong.

This is the ongoing, everyday Battle of Bedford Falls.  Many whom you know, and perhaps you yourself, have been on the front lines this year.

And you may not be able to see the lifeline that you are to others.

But we look forward to fighting it, each day, each year, regardless of the conditions because we, like George at the end of the movie, can each of us find ourselves the richest people.But we look forward to fighting it, each day, each year, regardless of the conditions because we, like George at the end of the movie, can each of us find ourselves the richest people.

As we send our wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, let us look forward to new challenges in 2015 as we strive, struggle and battle for every moment we can get with Family and Friends. Keep fighting the good fight.

Be About It.

Hayden Collins Tampa Bay Address

Captain Hayden Collins gave the keynote address at the Civil Air Patrol Florida Wing Group 3’s annual banquet in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Saturday, October 11.

The program included the presentation of Group, Region, Wing, and National awards to senior members, cadets, and Air Force officers, as well as the presentation of the Spaatz Award.  The General Carl A. Spaatz Award is CAP’s highest honor, recognizing a cadet’s excellence in leadership, character, fitness, and aerospace education, and it was presented at the banquet by Air Force Major General John P. Schoeppner, Jr.

To this audience, Collins spoke about those who pursue leadership, and what is expected of them. “The leadership of this nation is the 1%.  You are training to be the new leaders.  We will need more than 1%.  Your mission is to go and make it 2%.  Be About It.” Collins gave the example of how one man, one decision can change the course of our country, and that one decision makes a difference.  Collins called upon the cadets and officers to be bold, to question with boldness.

In Major General Schoeppner’s presentation of the Spaatz Award, he echoed Collins’ charge, and his recognition that the most important resource we have is our youth.

The banquet’s master of ceremonies was Cadet Colonel Alec Lampasona, who received the Spaatz Award in 2012.  Collins, who is the Emergency Services Officer, Group 1, Squadron 134 in CAP’s Georgia Wing, met him five years ago when Lampasona was a lieutenant in Collins’ Region Cadet Leadership School (an Advanced Training Flight course for officers) at Augusta, GA.  Collins’ leadership, particularly in connection with ATF, is nationally renowned.  As Lampasona introduced Collins at the banquet, he recalled that leadership training experience under Collins as one of the most influential in his life because Collins did not tell him to think, but inspired him to think for himself.

Captain Collins remarked, “I am always inspired by the youth I work with.  They are waiting for the opportunity to succeed.  I see the excitement and the light in their eyes, when the imagination comes to life and they know what to do.”