For Bronze Star recipient, serving is the real honor
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on November 4, 2011 1:46 PM
Lt. Col. David Evans carries his flight bag toward his F-15 Strike Eagle before taking off Wednesday from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Evans has been awarded the Bronze Star.
No ceremony could trump the feeling that comes with realizing a boyhood dream.
No decoration could render the journey toward it obsolete.
At least that's how David Evans sees it.
So when the 4th Fighter Wing lieutenant colonel was awarded the Bronze Star several weeks ago, he didn't feel the need to comment on just how humbling the moment was -- how it marked the culmination of a career in the skies.
The truth is, every day, for the airman, has created lasting memories no medal -- no matter how coveted it might be -- could outweigh.
"What sets our career in the military apart from other careers is that when I look back, the people I have gotten to work with and the teams I have been a part of have been absolutely amazing. I've never met a group of folks so dedicated to serving and so selfless and professional in my entire life," Evans said. "That's what keeps you going. That's what motivates you to continue being a part of this."
It started with a boy from Kansas looking skyward.
"I saw planes flying overhead -- that type of thing," Evans said. "From then on, I always wanted to fly -- as goofy as that sounds."
But when he finally joined the Air Force, less than perfect eyesight kept him from the pilot's seat.
"It turned out that being a navigator was the only way for me to get into the flying world," Evans said. "And the Strike Eagle, at the time, was the only fighter airplane that had a navigator."
So he went through pilot training with a goal: to find his way into the cockpit of an F-15E.
"And I got to do exactly that."
From his first flight out of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base to the skies over Afghanistan, Evans has found himself, many times, amazed by the fighter jet he has spent more than a decade in.
"The airplane is an amazing piece of machinery," he said.
And he should know.
In fact, in the 13-plus years he has spent in the cockpit, everything from the types of missions the aircraft is charged with to the weapons systems have changed dramatically.
"It has been interesting to see how the Strike Eagle's role has changed. I mean, when I came through (Seymour Johnson) in the B-Course, we were very much taught that old mindset. ... I remember being told by instructors and leadership at that time that the Strike Eagle would never do close-air-support, the Strike Eagle would never fire the gun at the ground and strafe," Evans said. "Well, within two years of that, we were doing all of the above in Afghanistan."
But one thing, the colonel said, has stayed the same -- the "amazing" people affiliated with the branch of service he wanted to join since he was a young boy.
"Every time I go down range, you're kind of torn because you're away from family and friends. But I love working with everybody down there. It's amazing to see the teams that form," he said. "The bottom line is, there's a job to get done and it's just amazing to watch everybody come together and form the solid team needed to do it. Everyone is fired up ... and that's refreshing to see and it makes you proud to be in the service. All those other achievements just happen."
So don't ask the airman how proud he is about the work that led to a coveted decoration.
Don't hint that you would like to see his Bronze Star -- or hear him comment on just how epic that achievement really is.
To Evans, a self-described "laid back kind of guy," the medal he wears every day is a sense of pride in knowing that he is one of the lucky ones -- one of the kids who worked hard enough to live out his dream of dreams; one of the men who, when his nation calls, delivers support to the men and women taking the fight to the enemy.
"In the end, that's all that matters -- that we get the job done over there," he said. "And that we help the guys on the ground so that we're making sure that every American we possibly can is making it back home safely."