WAIKIKI, October 26, 2012 – Perhaps no icon better captures the prime years of America’s military strength and her resolve against the threat of Soviet communism than the U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcat.
Originally built as a carrier based, supersonic jet interceptor designed to counter Russian nuclear bombers with powerful long range AIM-54 Phoenix missiles, the Tomcat became legendary after winning air-to-air combat victories against Libyan fighters during freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra in 1982.
With its roaring twin engines and variable geometry swept wings, the Tomcat and stories of it in action at sea captivated the American public and brought it into the spotlight of the silver screen as movies like The Final Countdown and Top Gun prominently featured U.S. Navy aviators flying high and pushing the edge of the envelope between the mighty wings of an F-14.
The famous 1986 Top Gun publicity photo of actor Tom Cruise posing in the cockpit of a Tomcat against the dynamic backdrop an American flag proved to be not only a powerful recruiting draw for eager future Navy fighter pilots, it also more importantly became a political meme for America’s overwhelming technological and military superiority of the Cold War.
From intercepting the hijackers of the Achille Lauro over the Mediterranean in October 1985 to flying missions against Taliban forces in Afghanistan during the early days of the War on Terror, the F-14 Tomcat and her pilots and crews were always at the frontlines when America needed airpower.
When budget cuts and a transforming Pentagon vision of war finally retired the Tomcat in 2006, the last flight of the F-14 came with proud sighs and bittersweet tears alike as people all across America remembered its role as an irreplaceable instrument of American defense.
In 2007, when I was working as a committee staffer at the Hawaii State Legislature I wanted to honor the service of the Tomcat and the courage of her pilots and crews so in my free time I drafted a house resolution which petitioned the U.S. Postal Service’s Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee to strongly consider creating a commemorative stamp.
After finding a representative to introduce it on my behalf, the resolution passed all of its committees in the lower chamber but didn’t make it to the senate. The following 2008 legislative session, I re-drafted the resolution and asked my state senator to introduce it on my behalf, which she gladly did.
The resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 47, quickly made its way through both chambers and drew supporters from all across America who sent a flood of letters and thank you cards in support of its passage. After being adopted by the Hawaii State Legislature, the resolution was transmitted to Washington D.C. on March 28, 2008. Its passage was an incredible victory for the legacy of naval aviation and everyone who served, but to this day there still remains no official commemorative Forever Stamp for the F-14 Tomcat.
I think that now more than ever, America needs to look back to its legacy of heroes and its icons of strength. The F-14 represented an era in which, as President Ronald Reagan famously said upon leaving office, “that’s what it was to be an American in the 1980’s. We stood, again, for freedom. I know we always have, but in the past few years the world again—and in a way, we ourselves—rediscovered it.”
I strongly encourage both President Obama and the U.S. Congress to consider working towards making a commemorative Tomcat stamp a reality. We owe it to the gallant men and women who supported, served and flew in that amazing airplane that so powerfully held the line for freedom.
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