Chuck DeBellevue says you have to be willing to sacrifice your life to protect your country.
DeBellevue, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, told a crowd of about 150 people attending Thursday’s gala honoring the Yukon Veterans Museum, said the U.S. has always had to defend its honor against other countries.
“It has always been defended by soldiers, by sailors, airmen and Marines and Coasties. That was true at the dawn of this country. It is true today,” DeBellevue said.
DeBellevue, who began his service in the Air Force in 1968, is retired and lives in Edmond.
He grew up in southern Louisiana and was a leading “ACE” during the war in Southeast Asia.
During Thursday’s event, DeBellevue talked about many of his adventures in the air, including close contact combat with MiG aircraft during the Vietnam War.
He said joining the military was in his blood as members of his family have been in defense of the country for generations dating to his great-great-great-great grandfather, who helped protect New Orleans as Marine Corps lieutenant in 1814.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to join the military. … Joining the military was in my blood,” he said.
“One of the reasons I did join the military was to pay back this country. The fact that we are born Americans means we owe a debt to this country and that debt does not come cheaply. It is a debt that has to be paid back continually if you expect to be free. You never know who your enemy is going to be. … We have to be ready to defend this country,” he said.
DeBellevue said fighting for the country takes courage.
“Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to do what we do. You are going into a strange area. What is courage? Is courage lack of fear? No. Courage is taking control of your fear,” he said.
“This country has always been protected by patriots who were willing to do whatever it takes to keep this country free,” DeBellevue said.
Also during the gala, retired Air Force Col. Dale DeKinder was honored for his contributions to the museum.
DeKinder, who retired from the Pentagon in 2004, spends substantial time volunteering at the museum.
He was honored with a quilt produced by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“It was a surprise to me,” DeKinder, who grew up in Chickasha, said.