Reflections at the Two Year Anniversary

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As a Foundation we deeply respect the men and women, past and present, who have given so much to our country. With the two year anniversary of Ratchet 33’s accident upon us we’ve spent a great deal of time reflecting on the lives, service and sacrifice of the members of the crew – Captain Nicholas S. Whitlock, Captain Ryan P. Hall, 1st Lieutenant Justin J. Wilkins, and Senior Airman Julian S. Scholten – remembering all they represented to their friends, families, colleagues and country.

Tomorrow, Feb. 18, 2014, we’d like to invite you to pause wherever you are at 10:19 CST, the moment Nick, Ryan, Justin and Julian’s plane when down two years ago, for a moment of silence to remember these great men.

And as our Foundation embarks on another year of supporting future leaders as well as the men and women who serve our country every day, we’ve spent some time considering the impact of Nick’s leadership, integrity and self-less service on our own lives. Below Nick’s parents, Jimmy and Clare Whitlock, share their personal thoughts on Nick and what these 2 years have meant to them.

From Jimmy Whitlock:

After the phone call from Ashley Saturday evening February 18, 2012, and as we were driving home from Florida, a peace came over us and we knew that our Nicholas was with Jesus in Heaven.  We knew that we could not get him back on this earth and the best we could do was to celebrate his life and accomplishments.  

If you personally knew Nick then you knew his heart, his character, his determination, and the many reasons to celebrate his life.  If you didn’t, an email we received from USAF Captain Joe Shamess does a great job of summing up who Nick was: “Nick always displayed a humble confidence and a quick smile.  He was very good at what he did and was an example to everyone.  As a flight commander, I would have given anything to have him in my flight.  He got things done, and never complained…a true silent professional.” 

Foundation members and every friend and volunteer that has worked and continues to work to honor Nick’s life and service, we thank you for keeping the memory of Nicholas Schade Whitlock alive. Our prayer is that the loss of our son on this earth will not be wasted. We hope to see Nick’s memory live on, inspiring others to excellence through the example of his life, and that many will see who Nick followed and will come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ. 

Of all the advice that we have been given since the crash, I wanted to share with you one question that sticks with me the most.  The question is, “When you meet Nick again and he asks you what you have done with the rest of your life, what will be your answer?”  We know that our Nick would want us to go on living and to do our very best each day to enjoy our remaining years while letting others see Jesus in us.  Because we are certain that this will honor Nick and our Lord the most, we are able to get up, stand up, and make the most of each day.  Yes, the tears still fall, but when we see our Nick again and he asks that question, we will happily answer that we did all we could with each new day.  We pray that you’re also able to stand and make the most of each day living out the plan God has for you. Thank you for loving Nick!

From Clare Whitlock:

As I think of the impact our Nicholas made and is continuing to make by the life he lived, I first think of the little boy he was.  When he first recognized us and called us by name, he would always put “my” in front.  Like, “Hi my mommy,” “Hi my daddy,” “Hi my Jamesy.”  We were his and he was ours.  As he grew, he was proud of us and always wanted us with him.  And as much as I loved the boy, I loved watching the man he became. 

 Nicholas was full of life, loving everyone and everything he did.  He had high goals and was willing to work hard to accomplish them.  Nick was an encourager, wanting the best for others.  He was sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in his life.  He wanted what God wanted for him.  He sought God’s will for his bride, and when God gave him the green light, he was all in.  Our hopes and dreams for Nicholas were wrapped up in Nick and Ashley.  They were a unique couple from today’s standards.  They loved God, family and country, and were praying for God to use their blessed marriage to bless others.  

It is hard to understand God’s purpose in taking Nick home, but I know it was His pleasure to welcome such a faithful one as he.  I can only imagine what he is doing.  In my search of heaven, I have learned that he is worshipping Jesus, he is interceding for the ones who are still here (as Jesus is), and he is working, doing whatever God has called him to do.  I think about Ashley’s Pa Pa, who was an artist, painting with Nick right by his side learning from his technique.  I think about their common love for flying, painting and their family, in which we are forever one, and I know they are both cheering us on to complete the race God has set before each of us. 

As a mother, I grieve with hope, knowing Nick is safe and sound with Jesus, but that we will always miss his hugs, smile and beautiful face.  I continue to learn that God’s grace is sufficient during these days of loss, and I praise God for giving us the hope of reunion one sweet day!