The Real Ace Combat

Brigadier General Steve Ritchie is arguably one of the most decorated men to ever grace an Air Force uniform. A veteran of the Vietnam War, General Ritchie has been awarded the Air Force Cross, the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal, the Mackay Trophy, and the Jabara Award, just to name a few. The Air Force Cross is the second-highest decoration that can be bestowed on a member of the U.S. Air Force. His accomplishments made him that much more of a special guest at the 2009 Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C.

In previous Memorial Day parades, General Ritchie walked along the parade route as honorary marshal representing Vietnam veterans; he is chairman of the Vietnam Veterans Commission with the American Veterans Center. This year, however, General Ritchie said that he decided to just take a break from the parade.

In civilian life, Ritchie has been active in politics. At the urging of late Senator Barry Goldwater, Ritchie ran for Congress in North Carolina as a Republican but lost in the midst of the Watergate Scandal. During the 1980’s Ritchie served in President Ronald Reagan’s administration as director of the Office of Child Support Enforcement and later to the Mobilization Policy and Plans Directorate under the Secretary of Defense.

Ritchie has a great amount of respect for the late President Reagan. “Reagan is the greatest human being I have ever known,” Ritchie exclaimed, “I’ve been to all fifty states and 37 countries, but Reagan is number one.” Such words are of high praise coming from a man who has accomplished so much in his own right.

Ritchie was one of just five American flying aces during the Vietnam War. An ace is a military aviator whose responsibility is to shoot down enemy aircraft in aerial combat. As an ace, Ritchie recorded five kills, logged over 800 flying hours, and completed 339 combat missions. After completing his second combat tour of duty in 1972, Ritchie was one of the most decorated airmen of the Vietnam War.

Being one the blessed ones to make it home alive from Vietnam, General Ritchie is grateful for the sacrifices his comrades have made. “Without thousands of military men and veterans around the world doing their job in an outstanding manner, I wouldn’t be a fighting ace and I wouldn’t be alive,” said Ritchie about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, “Everyday is a plus, it’s a day the others never had.”

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Explore posts in the same categories: American Veterans Center, Memorial Day Parade, Vietnam

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