Carrying on a family tradition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Anthony J. Hyatt
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Many people have a hero of some sort; either real or made-up. Some people may consider their hero to be a famous person or a professional athlete, while others would choose a fictional character like Superman.  My hero is my dad.

My dad, Chief Master Sgt. (ret) Richard R. Hyatt, was the 375th Communications Squadron superintendent at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.  He's responsible for me being in the Air Force today, and he taught me many valuable lessons -- especially about an important concept: integrity.

I took leave to attend my dad's retirement ceremony Oct. 5 at Scott AFB. Our family knew the importance of this event and made sacrifices to make it to the retirement from all over the United States. My father's younger brother, Chief Master Sgt. Paul B. Hyatt, 375th Communications Support Squadron superintendent, also at Scott AFB, had to travel the shortest distance. 

When I was younger I really didn't understand or appreciate what my dad did. All I knew was that my dad worked with telephone lines. As Lt. Col. Jeri Day, 375th CS commander, spoke about my dad's achievements at the ceremony, I didn't realize how much my dad accomplished in his 24-year career in the Air Force. 

No offense, but it felt like the ceremony would never end.

Colonel Day's speech mentioned one of my dad's most indelible memories while being in the Air Force -- his training instructor days at Lackland Air Force Base. He was always one to help out the young Airmen, and there is no easier way to do that than to be a T.I. He had a record of guiding eight straight honor flights. 

You may be asking yourself, "Your dad was a T.I.? Was he strict at home?"

The answer is "Yes!" He was strict at home, but in a good way. He was always someone who didn't accept excuses, he was always on top of everything, and he was definitely a perfectionist.

As I got older and a little bit wiser, the time for me to start worrying about what I was going to do in the future began to get closer and my interest in dad's career grew. I was determined that my future would be either playing college baseball or joining the military. 

Every day I came home from class, my dad would ask me, "Did you see the recruiter today?"

I would stubbornly reply 'No.'  I was not ready to face the fact that maybe baseball wasn't going to be in my future.

I'm not playing short stop for the Cleveland Indians.  Instead, I chose to serve in the military. I can thank my dad for that.  He is a major reason I'm where I am today, definitely pointing me in the right direction.

I've always been the type of person to keep to myself, but when I really had a need for answers I usually turned to my dad. The best advice he has ever given to me is the time he told me about the word "integrity." I did something wrong and my dad questioned me about it. I, of course, told him the truth -- that it wasn't me! 

He stared at me and then went into this story:

"A.J., the most important thing in the Air Force, and life, is integrity," my dad said. Keep in mind I was very young and didn't know what integrity was.

"I would rather have some lousy, clumsy, always-messing-up Airman with integrity than some super, hot shot, doesn't mess up, sharp Airman without integrity. Be honest, because once you lose someone's trust, it's hard to get back."

Most young Airmen are asked what their proudest moment is in the military. Most responses have to do with graduating basic military training or receiving an award from a commander, but my proudest moment was dressing up in blues and being there for my dad, like he's been there for me, at his retirement ceremony.

In the next couple years, my uncle Paul will most likely retire from the Air Force and I will be the last one left from the Hyatt family still on active duty. I was asked at the ceremony if I was up to filling the big shoes now that my dad was retired.  With the values my father has instilled in me and the competitive nature of our family, of course I accept the challenge. 

Only time will tell.