By Lt. Col. Ralph Gracia
Recently, my unit commander was selected to attend the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs. This is my seventh cadet in my 15-year career in the Air Force Junior ROTC to be selected to attend the prestigious USAFA. Cadet Lt. Col. Richard Pardey, a Colombian native, took great pride in leading my unit to total success in the past four years. It gives me great joy to be surrounded by passionate cadets like Richard who are living their dreams and pursuing their goals as officers in the Air Force. In an article by Stan Toler, he says: “Leaders live in an atmosphere that is, to some extent, of their own creation. They have learned that carrying a gray cloud on a string everywhere they go, the people they encounter will naturally be disheartened. But by letting the sun shine through their demeanor, they can cast a confident aura.”
In the past, I shared an article of the first female four-star general in the Air Force, General Janet C. Wolfenbarger. The general said humbly to me, “Thank you for moving our next generation on.” I remember these words now as clearly as the moment she shared them a year ago. As noted by back-then Cadet Major Pardey, in experiencing his first ever competition, “When you are competing in a national’s level competition, you must keep in mind winning is not always everything. Sometimes you need to lose to understand and recognize those aspects the team must improve on.” Cadet Pardey is absolutely right about that. The important thing is being humble about the situation you are dealt. Richard and I are still impressed with the general’s words and they continue to inspire me to help the next generation of cadets reach their dreams. Richie certainly is on his way!
Some of you might remember Cadet Pardey in an article I wrote in May 2014 entitled, “Leadership through Outreach Programs…A Must for Our Youth!” where Cadet Pardey shared, “My dream is to attend USAFA.” This was said three years ago. I am proud to announce that about a month ago Cadet Pardey received his letter of acceptance from the prestigious USAFA. Starting from the moment when he decided to apply, until the moment he had his interview with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, I had the wonderful opportunity of observing the long, exhausting but rewarding process.
I asked Cadet Pardey what he would recommend to those students fulfilling their dreams after high school. He replied, “The most important thing is to be consistent, work hard and stay motivated. Remember, you only have one life, so use your time and opportunities wisely.” The dream becoming a pilot will both be a rewarding and blessed moment for an outstanding cadet like Richard. Within a few month, Cadet Pardey will be graduating and heading to Colorado Springs to begin his journey as a USAFA cadet: A Dream Come True!