Dear Civil Air Patrol
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Dear Civil Air Patrol

What This Unbelievable Program Has Done For Me

Dear Civil Air Patrol
Erika Fletcher

For those who aren’t familiar with Civil Air Patrol, and for those who are altogether confuzzled by the words, allow me to provide you with a brief explanation.

Civil Air Patrol -- CAP for short -- is an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. It is a youth program, not unlike JROTC, targeted towards middle-school-through-college-aged kids (twelve to twenty-one-year-olds). There are squadrons (like Boy/Girl Scout troops) nationwide, and even worldwide, with cadets and senior members alike in attendance. It is an organization entirely run and powered by volunteers and promotes an environment of leadership and personal improvement through its Cadet Programs, Physical Training, Emergency Services, and Aerospace Education, among endless other opportunities and activities. Instilling within its members the Core Values of Integrity, Excellence, Volunteer Service, and Respect, Civil Air Patrol is an incredible place for growth and achievement.

I am a CAP cadet.

And I'd like to write a letter.

Dear Civil Air Patrol,

When you and I first met, I was young. You were simply a place I went every once in awhile to watch my sister get 'promoted' -- whatever that was -- and eat cream puffs. Those were awesome cream puffs.

But then I grew older, and you became something more. I was nearing twelve, which meant I could join you, take part, and attend meetings for more than just cream puffs. I stayed up 'til 9:30pm on Thursday nights just to see Rachel and John in their uniforms, and hear the latest "haps" at the squadron. I knew I wanted to join, though I honestly had no clue what you were like without cream puffs.

I'm so glad I found out.

I discovered a world where studying aviation, astronomy, and cartography on a weekly basis was the norm, and where intelligence, knowledge, curiosity, and the pursuit of education was held as a standard, as well as a goal. I stepped through a portal where respect was not simply encouraged, but was a nonnegotiable expectation. If an instructor was teaching a class, we sat up. We took real notes. We listened intently because we knew they had knowledge to share that we did not already possess. We did not crack crude jokes and roll our eyes at the teacher, nor have our phones taken away as punishment. We didn't text. We were there to learn and better ourselves, and an environment in which that could be accomplished was fostered.

I stumbled into a world where I could lead an army of cadets with the raw inflection of my voice.

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I stumbled into a world where I could fly planes and gliders, and navigate the skies as well as the ground. I stumbled into a world where I could silence a room with the boom of my voice simply because I� was respected and held a power that I used to better my surroundings.

I stumbled into you, CAP.

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And I'm forever grateful for that.

Because of you, I went from a scrawny twelve-year-old who ate cream puffs, to a leader who commanded a squadron. Because of you, I understand respect, and dignity. Because of you, I don't stutter so much when I stand in front of a crowd, because I know I have that power to lead a squadron, to comprehend respect. Because of you, Civil Air Patrol, I unleashed a power within myself I was unaware I contained. Because of you, I'm me.

So thank you. Thanks for giving me some of the most inspiring and courageous and loyal friends I could have ever received.

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Thanks for teaching me of strong leaders, weak leaders, and how to decipher between the two. Thanks for providing me a taste of Grog. Thanks for introducing me to some really freaking awesome senior members. Thanks for giving me a voice. Thank you for showing me honor. Thanks for my wingman. Thank you for teaching me how to do 45 push-ups, and how to motivate others to do the same. Thanks for some of the most important memories I'll ever create. Thank you for trusting me with responsibility, and showing me how to handle it. Thanks for giving me my heroes. Most importantly, thank you for building the person I am today, because I know, without a doubt, I wouldn't be that person without you.

The adventures I've had with you cannot be put into words. But thanks for giving me people that understand, even without my words - like the Doctor at Sully Car Show 2012, Chef Steve, Oreos, and knife hands :) I'm really excited to go home to you, CAP. I can't wait to see what adventures you have waiting for me.

I'm really lucky to be a part of you.

Please don't ever forget that you'll always be a part of me, too.

So much love for you, CAP.


Rebecca Boelsche, Civil Air Patrol Cadet


Dedicated to the best squadron this organization knows, Fredericksburg Compositive #FredSquad, to all the amazing friends I've made along the way, to the inspiring heroes I've encountered, and to my sister and brother. If Rachel hadn't joined, and John hadn't followed, I would never have met CAP.

Images accredited to: Erika Fletcher; Ryan Blanding; CAP VAWG Encampment PAO staff; Kimberly Frady; Fredericksburg PAO; Rebecca Boelsche

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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