Retired general speaks about reconciliation, forgiveness at NCLS

Retired Brig. Gen. Dan Cherry spoke to cadets and Academy staff about reconciliation and forgiveness at the 2014 National Character and Leadership Symposium here Feb. 27. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Liz Copan)

Retired Brig. Gen. Dan Cherry spoke to cadets and Academy staff about reconciliation and forgiveness at the 2014 National Character and Leadership Symposium here Feb. 27. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Liz Copan)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- One officer's story proves that reconciliation, even under the most abstract circumstances, is possible.

Such was the focus of retired Brig. Gen. Dan Cherry's story when he spoke during the 2014 National Character and Leadership Symposium here Feb. 27 and 28.

"I'm delighted to be here with you today -- to tell you somewhat of a war story, but in reality it's much more than that," he said.

The retired general shared his story as depicted in his book, 'My Enemy ... My Friend,' to an audience of cadets, Academy staff and visitors here as one of more than 20 guest speakers for the event.

"It was moving to hear him discuss the friend he gained after the conflict of ideologies," said Lt. Col. Andreas Wesemann, an Academy staff member who met with Cherry after his presentation. "Where once he was learning to fight and kill the enemy, now he seeks to build bonds of friendship through the healing process of forgiveness."

During the Vietnam War in 1972, Cherry was a fighter pilot when he shot down a North Vietnamese MiG-21 with his F-4 Phantom. The story of that conflict became the setting of his book.

But, as Cherry tells it, the book is less about the fight and more about the friendship that followed.

"The star of this story is Nguyen Hong My," Cherry said. "I discovered Hong My had a tremendous sense of humor. He acts like many fighter pilots I've known in my lifetime."

Cherry described the course of his friendship with the once enemy pilot, and shared the lesson of forgiveness with the audience.

One lesson learned was that the leadership characteristic that supersedes confidence and determination is caring, he said.

The annual NCLS event remains the nation's premier symposium on the topics of character and leadership development and has been hosted at the Air Force's Academy since 1993. Additional information about General Cherry and other guest speakers can be found by visiting http://www.cvent.com/events/national-character-leadership-symposium/event-summary-486001c4c87e4fe6932a136a9fbe929d.aspx.