Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Remembering the Founder of Civil Air Patrol on Memorial Day

by 2d Lt Rommel Anacan, CAP 
Public Affairs Officer

His name graces the highest level adult member professional development award that is given by Civil Air Patrol. This award honors members that have “dedicated themselves to leadership and personal development in the CAP.” CAP members desiring positions of a regional or national significance must earn this award. Without him there might not have been a Civil Air Patrol.

And yet, as important as he was to the thousands of members of CAP, I did not know much about Gill Robb Wilson. Yes, I remember his name from Level One orientation and from seeing his name on the award that now bears his name. However, I have been so immersed in my emergency services and specialty track training, that I just never took the time to really know the man who founded CAP … until this Memorial Day. 

Since 1974 members of California Wing have held a ceremony honoring and remembering Wilson at his gravesite in Covina, California. I found out about this ceremony while trying to find CAP-related activities on Memorial Day in California Wing, and decided that I wanted to attend. I also chose to bring my daughter with me so that she could learn more about the true meaning of Memorial Day, and so she could get a glimpse of my life in CAP. 

Lt. Col. Charles Wiest presided over the ceremonies (which also included chaplains and leaders from California Wing and the Pacific Region) and let us know of Wilson’s life as an aviation and aerospace advocate, minister, poet and author. It was Wilson’s efforts that led to the United States mobilizing the skills and efforts of private pilots to defend the homeland, through founding CAP, during the turbulent period before our nation’s entry into World War II, and he served as CAP’s first executive officer. 

2d Lt Rommel Anacan, CAP at the grave of Gill Robb Wilson
On 1 December, 1941 CAP was formed. Six days later American was drawn into a war it had tried to avoid for two years. Wilson’s vision was validated and the members of CAP served the nation valiantly and voluntarily throughout the duration of the war. 

Wilson also founded the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), he was a president of the Air Force Association (who also has an award named after Wilson), he was the Chairman of the Board of the AFA and was presented the National Aeronautic Association’s Frank G. Brewer Trophy for his advocacy of aviation in the United States. 

His gravestone has the words below, penned by Wilson, which I believe is a fitting epitaph to the man. I'm glad I took the time to honor and remember him, and also to get to know him a little better ... 

“It’s ever thus as the ages roll and the record’s written clear. Somebody has to give himself as the price of each frontier; Somebody has to take a cross and climb to a rendezvous where a lonesome man with a will to lead can make the truth shine through."