UPT Graduation, Vance AFB

I recently had the pleasure of attending undergraduate pilot training (UPT) graduation at Vance AFB in Enid Oklahoma. Courtney Schaer was a 2006 scholarship recipient from The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation. I was also in attendance when Courtney graduated from the US Air Force Academy in May 2011. I had never been to a graduation at USAFA; it was very emotional for me thinking of LeRoy’s graduation in 1986, nine years before we would ever meet.

Now here I was again, having the privilege of seeing Courtney complete another major milestone in her aviation career. As is the case with many of our scholarship recipients, we meet them when they are young kids, and somehow they become these adults who can fly airplanes!

I decided to take a look at Courtney’s scholarship application essay – oh yes, we do keep them! – to see what 2006 Courtney had to say. She wrote “a good family friend started to take me up flying with him and taught me about the aerodynamics of an airplane and what it takes to be a good pilot. I instantly became hooked on the mixture of adrenalin, freedom and power that I receive when I was at the controls of the airplane. I also felt a comforting connection with my father every time I climbed into the cockpit. Flying gave me a bonding experience with my father that I had missed out in the early years.”

Reading that essay today, I feel the same way about spending time with Courtney during her graduation. I am able to see a part of LeRoy’s life story through her, which in turn makes me feel even more connected to him. For me, although I didn’t know it when we started the Foundation, is one of the greatest gifts I could have been given.

We are in the process of reviewing this year’s scholarship applications, and I have no doubt they will make us just as proud.