Following a fine example

Published 9:47 pm Monday, December 14, 2009

Col. Fred V. Cherry flew more than 50 combat missions over North Korea and another 52 missions over the skies of Vietnam.

Born on March 24, 1928, Cherry was an accomplished fighter pilot, completing mission after mission aboard his F-105 Thunderchief. Those completed missions ended when the Suffolk native was shot down over Vietnam on Oct. 22, 1965.

On that date, he became the first African American POW of the Vietnam War. Injured from the ejection, he endured minimal medical treatment and numerous interrogations through his more than six years in captivity.

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Throughout his life, Cherry battled the emotions of being a POW, but he learned a tremendous lesson that he shared in a story published in the Virginian-Pilot in 1999.

“I learned never to take what we have in this country, the greatest country in the world, for granted,” Cherry said.

What Cherry probably would never have admitted was that his service to country and the tremendous sacrifice that he and millions of others have made for it helped make this “the greatest country in the world.”

And it is that service and commitment that lead to the creation of the Col. Fred V. Cherry Scholarship that was created by Margaret Reid more than 30 years ago to honor the retired Air Force colonel.

But because of the death of many of the trustees of the Fred V. Cherry Foundation, the scholarships has not been awarded for several years. But that is all about to change.

Thanks to the efforts of the Suffolk Foundation, that hiatus is over, and the scholarship will once again be awarded each year to a graduating Suffolk senior.

We cannot thank the Foundation enough for its effort to continue honoring this outstanding American and native son. And, we cannot challenge enough the recipients of this scholarship.

The namesake of this scholarship gave his entire life to the service of others and to the defense of this country. If those who are awarded this scholarship give just a portion of Col. Cherry’s commitment in their fields of choice, then there is no telling what they can accomplish.