Today’s Civil Air Patrol is built on a solid foundation laid by men like Gill Robb Wilson, Thomas H. Beck, Guy P. Gannett, John F. Curry, Earle Johnson and many others. For over 70 years, each succeeding generation of CAP members has added new layers, which have gradually shaped the organization that we know today. Their deeds and accomplishments, their names and dates, are indeed “history”. Sometimes that history has been embellished, enhanced, or abridged. But our founding fathers, our predecessors, have left us much more than that: a rich heritage and legacy. That heritage represents a unique CAP culture that includes our uniforms and insignia, organization and structure, connections and relationships, argot and terminology, core values, attitudes and outlook. Above all else, they have left us a tradition and commitment of service to our nation.
As CAP members, we have an obligation to learn and embrace our heritage. Unfortunately, CAP (like most organizations) doesn’t do this justice. New members, cadet and officer alike, see only a few pages of CAP history during their introduction to our organization. Following that, it is often simply absorbed by observing the attitude and actions of our mentors and role models. New members gradually learn about our common culture, but rarely is this presented in terms of our cultural heritage.
Our second obligation is to record the events and accomplishments of today, both great and small. CAP public affairs officers write about and photograph important events as they happen; in a short time, these become the responsibility of the historians. Save and record our own accomplishments and those of our generation, in photos, important documents, and unique memorabilia. Throwing it in a drawer “for later” won’t suffice.
We are but temporary custodians of this legacy, and we need to cherish and nurture it while in our custody. Today, we have a unique opportunity to share and add to that heritage. No longer is it just the responsibility of the learned historian, the archivist or the curator. The Internet, and especially social media, allows us to network with others across long distances, and scan and share scattered and fragmented gems of our heritage. Digital archives --- organized collections of scanned documents, photos and artifacts --- vastly expand the walls of brick and mortar collections, and are readily available to large numbers of interested people.
Our final obligation, after we have nurtured it, is to carefully pass this heritage to our successors. Actively mentor newer members (not just cadets). Search the archives, interview long-time members, and draw new lessons and conclusions. Write, speak, display or otherwise share those lessons. In this way, we build the next layer for the future of CAP. This is our legacy to the future.
Each of us stand in a long blue line, stretching back to Wilson and Curry and Johnson and others.
Preserve the past…record the present…insure the future.