In honor of Veterans Day, and in conjunction with Brigham Young University’s yearly presidential review of the Army and Air Force ROTC cadets, Col. Jonathan Creer, commander of BYU’s Air Force ROTC, presented Brig. Gen. Derek O’Malley with the 2023 Patriot Award for his dedication to the values of duty, honor, country, God, and family.
O’Malley began his military service in BYU’s Air Force ROTC in the 1990s while pursuing his undergraduate degree in communications. Since his graduation in 1996, he has held multiple positions in the Air Force. He began as a second lieutenant, eventually flying a variety of fighter jets in both operational tests and combat situations, and he moved his way up to his current rank as a brigadier general. In his current position, he serves as the deputy director of operations at the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado.
In his acceptance speech, O’Malley commented on the changes that the military has undergone. “Things change over time,” he said. “The uniforms have changed. The weapons and tactics have become more sophisticated. The one thing that has remained constant is that there have always been brave men and women just like you who are willing to stand up and fight.”
Speaking to the cadets, O’Malley recounted a story of a little boy asking his father what courage is. The father explained, “Courage is the desire to be brave even though you are afraid,” O’Malley said. “If you have love in your heart, then you have courage.”
With such courage, military veterans of the past defended the nation’s freedoms. “I hope you remember the examples of the generations who have served before you and that you will serve with the same vigor and commitment that they did,” he said.
O’Malley reminded the cadets that the future belongs to them as they will continue the tradition of the veterans who came before. “In just a few short years my generation will pass the torch to all of you. As that torch is passed, each of you will take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” O’Malley said.
To the cadets, O’Malley emphasized the importance of being intentional about the decision to serve in the military: “As you take that oath, I want you to listen to those words. I want you to feel it. Please don’t let them just be empty words that you recite at some ceremony.”
He also reminded the listeners why people choose to serve in the military. “We serve because we love our country,” he said. “We love our freedoms. We love our families. And these things that we love, they are worth defending.”
During the event, BYU President Shane Reese reviewed the ROTC cadets and cadre and spoke of the importance of honoring veterans who help BYU achieve its Christ-centered, prophetically directed mission. “Our unique mission as a university has distinct religious and spiritual components. Those freedoms are protected by the Constitution,” Reese said.
Thanking those in the military who defend the Constitution, President Reese remarked, “I pay tribute to the many men and women who take up their arms in defense of our country. They make the dream of ‘Becoming BYU’ possible.”
Written by Jake Holt