Thanking our Veterans – STEM Professionals in the Armed Forces

by STEM Scouts

This Veterans Day, not only do we honor those who served our country in the armed forces, but we have an opportunity to highlight servicemen and women who have used their STEM skills to defend our freedom. Without their expertise, many of the tools the military uses for success—radar, encryption, decryption and other intelligence-gathering and weapons systems—would not exist. The science, technology, engineering and math skills of these dedicated men and women have made the United States a leader in military innovation.

Retired United States Air Force Major General Richard “Dick” Webber is an executive board member of the Great Smoky Mountain Council who knows a thing or two about STEM in the military. Among many other accomplishments, he was the first Commander of the 24th Air Force and Commander, Air Force Network Operations, in which he operated and defended the Air Force cyberspace network. Prior to that, he worked in nuclear missile and space operations. With commands at the squadron, group, wing and numbered Air Force levels, he credits his background in STEM as a major factor in his career opportunities.

“My father was an electrical engineer and encouraged me and my siblings to pursue the highest education we could. In high school, I took the hardest possible math and science classes. In the military, I was able to continue my education in multiple areas. Many of those classes didn’t come easy for me, but I worked hard and followed opportunities. My advice for young people today: Science and technology are the future, so take every math and science class possible.”

In his 36 years in the armed forces, Dick has served in a variety of capacities alongside many servicemen and women. He knows firsthand the impact veterans have had on the success of the U.S. military and the recognition they deserve.

“I’ve seen Belgian civilians and former military members honor deceased American military members at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. They appreciate what the Americans did during World War II to liberate their country. I’ve even shaken hands with Vietnam War veterans who thanked me for serving. Veterans Day is about remembering those who gave their all and thanking those who’ve served.”

How can we honor our nation’s heroes this Veterans Day? Dick suggests “a personal handshake and a thank-you and volunteering for organizations that help veterans.” You don’t need any special STEM skills to do that, just willingness and gratitude.

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