U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – There are family stories that get better with each telling, which are passed down from generation to generation like an inheritance.
For Blaine and Becky McKinney, many stories involve the Air Force Academy; where their sons Austin, Connor and Lucas ‘grew into men’ and carried on the family legacy of military service. One such story involves Gen. Norton Schwartz.
“My oldest son was part of a luncheon with [Schwartz] as one of the top members of the Cadet Wing, and when he spoke to the general, he talked about the progression of service in our family. His great grandfather had enlisted in the Army and served as cook in WWI for the infantry. His grandfather had enlisted and later commissioned in the Air Force to serve as a navigator, staff officer and commander, with a 27-year career in the Air Force,” said Blaine McKinney. “His father had served as an Air Force Reserve officer and pilot and commissioned through ROTC. Now he was here at the Academy. So, he finishes all this and then Schwartz said to him, ‘what are your children going to be – President of the United States?’”
Blaine is a proud father. His sons have gone on to become a diplomat, a doctor and a pilot. He credits the boys’ mother, their hard work and the Air Force Academy for their success.
“We will always be grateful to the Air Force and the Academy as a family,” he said. “We treasure our memories from the many Parents’ Weekends, football games and ski trips during our more than a decade of traveling to the Academy.”
Austin earned the Marshall Scholarship, completing two master’s degrees through that program. He served six years as an acquisitions officer and later attended Harvard University, graduating with an MBA. He is now a Reserve officer and foreign area officer with the U.S. State Department.
Connor is serving as an emergency medicine physician at Travis Air Force Base, California.
Lucas recently completed training to become an E-3 AWACS pilot at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.
Austin said his family has been an important aspect of every phase of his career. He talked about their influence in three main areas: inspiration, support and celebration.
“My family history inspired me to become interested in the Air Force and military service as I was entering high school. They were a bedrock of support for me at the Academy to talk through the regular and challenging parts of my life. To bounce ideas off. To get advice. And then, they were there to celebrate every important milestone of my military career with me,” he said.
Austin also spoke about the extended network of classmates and fellow graduates he’s kept in touch with. From his freshman roommate, who was the best man at his wedding, and all the other classmates he worked with in the Air Force, he said those relationships have played an important part in his life and represent a family he gained after coming to the Academy.
Editor’s Note: Austin graduated in 2010, Connor graduated in 2013 and Lucas graduated in 2017