Speech by president on the occasion of the closing down banquet
Saturday 28 May 2016
A very emotional speech by our president on the occasion of the closing banquet!
Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our SW Association Closing Banquet and a special welcome to our numerous Ladies who I am sure will appreciate the pralines of our Belgian World Champion. We are also privileged to welcome some distinguished guests : our honorary member General Mich Mandl and his wife Liliane, the chairman of the Vieilles Tiges General Wif De Brouwer and Anne Malaise who remains a member of the great Silver Wings family and last but not least the US Air Attaché Colonel Scott Sheppard and his charming wife Barbie, they both represent our mother the United States Air Force.
Today is a sad day for the reasons that you know but instead of lamenting and crying, let's make it a day of joy and happiness with our best souvenirs.
Let's remember how lucky we were to go through the best pilot and navigator training in the world and to earn our precious Silver Wings.
Let's remember our Air Force career. During those 6,12,25 or more years, we have been the backbone of the Belgian Air Force. We have been in command of flights, squadrons, flying groups, wings, Tactical Air Force, Training Command, Logistic Command and even the whole Air Force with the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff. Within NATO, we have taken part in the deterrence against the Eastern block and in the defence of our country and our families. We did participate in the live saving operations in our ex-colonies and in humanitarian missions in different part of the world. Today the younger generation are still engaged in anti-terrorist operations in the Middle East after Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.
Let's remember also the thousands of hours we have spent in the cockpits of Sabena, Sobelair, Bias, TEA, TNT, Air Zaïre, Saudi, Singapore and Brussels Airlines. Our Silver Wings have shined all over Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, the Atlantic and the Pacific, the North Pole and even the snow and ice of the Antarctic with our friend Willy Kother.
Let's remember also the 37 years of existence of our brotherhood during which we have had some 100 reunions. We have visited regularly all the BAF units, we have been briefed on the evolution and operations of BAF and USAF, on all types of aircraft including the F-22, and recently the Lockheed F-35, the Boeing F-18-F and the Dassault Rafale, 3 of the potential successors to our F-16. We have been abroad to Spangdalem and Ramstein, to Cambrai and Le Bourget at the invitation of the French Silver Wings and we have received them at the Brussels Air Museum and in Florennes. We have been to Miami at the invitation of the local Belgian consul Guy Govaerts, himself a Silver Wings and still further to Las Vegas for the 50th anniversary of the USAF in 1997. We have visited the Belgian aeronautical industries, a Nuclear Power Plant, the Federal Police, Belgocontrol, the Port of Antwerp, an oil refinery, a paper mill, a malt factory, several breweries, car assembly lines, several air and other museums. We have represented the SW at Belgian Air Force patriotic ceremonies and festivities. And this is the fifth successive banquet that we organize with ladies.
Today, I would like to thank our distinguished guests for their presence and present them the crest of our association. I also would like on your behalf to express our gratitude to a few persons : first of all to Mich Moulin for creating our association in 1979 and for chairing such during 25 years until he moved to Mexico, Mich would have liked to be with us today but it was not feasible ; thanks also to all the successive US Air Attachés for their support and for presenting the 50 and 60 year certificates to our senior members; to my friend Louis Neve for seconding me as vice-president during the last 12 years; to our dear Philippe Mozart who has acted as secretary during all the 37 years of existence of our association; to Eddy De Sutter, our friendly webmaster for creating and maintaining our splendid website which will remain as a historic monument and by the way, when it is completed with today's event, we will tell you how to save it for the future before it disappears from the net and finally to Nono Niels our smiling photographer for the thousands of pictures which illustrate our website as souvenirs of our reunions.(Gifts)
Don't you worry, my dear friends, the spirit of the Silver Wings is not dead. We will meet regularly in the future with the VTB, the Old flyers, the Silver Spurs, the KB Old Chaps, the Mirage pilots, the Golden Falcon, the White Bison, the Veterans and at the BAF ceremonies and festivities.
Our Silver Wings will live forever in our heart and we will continue to wear them proudly on our uniform and on our chest.
I would like to add to this speech the wonderful mail received this morning from our honorary member, Colonel John Rivers who was the instructor of our friends Giddelo and Govaerts of class 52-B at Goodfellow AFB. Please find it hereafter.
Sent: Friday, May 27, 2016 5:09 PM
Subject: Silver Wings
Dear Mr. Castermans,
Today, I took my wings out of the case where they were placed in the position of honor above the medals I received as a pilot, and as I started polishing the wings for the first time in many years, they shined like I had never seen them shine before. I shined the wings, the shield, the star, and the wreath. As the wings started to sparkle, they brought back so many memories.
The day I received my wings sixty-five years ago, I received a telegram from my older brother, George, who was a Navy pilot, and it said: "Keep those Wings shining." George is gone, my wings are shining, and history marches on. History marches on, but the spirit of those "Silver Wings," and the men who wore them, and the families who supported them will ring out every day when we see or hear an aircraft above, above every continent in the world. They have, and will continue to take people to places they have only dreamed about, and when necessary will defend those who need defending.
Meetings might end, but the history written by those "Silver Wings" will go on forever. For many of us, earning those wings was the greatest accomplishment in our lives, and only those who earned them, know how hard it was.
From this day forward lets all of us keep those "Silver Wings" shining.
A proud Honorary member of the "Silver Wings,"
John S. Rivers
By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
(A sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee, an American pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Second World War. He came to Britain, flew in a Spitfire squadron, and was killed at the age of nineteen on 11 December 1941 during a training flight from the airfield near Scopwick.)
Portions of this lovely poem appear on the headstones of
many interred in Arlington National Cemetery,
particularly aviators and astronauts
"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds -
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of -
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I've chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God."