18th OSS remembers fallen pilot, rededicates building
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 18th Operations Support Squadron rededicated Cardin Hall, Bldg. 3382, Dec. 20 on Kadena Air Base, Japan, 30 years after it's initial naming.
But, who was Cardin?
In 1979, 18 F-15 Eagle aircraft flew from the United States to Okinawa, marking a historic day for the aircraft and the Air Force. Kadena Air Base became the first overseas location to obtain the five-year-old aircraft, and also home to Capt. Edwin "Cowboy" Cardin.
"Cardin was an F-15 pilot who was assigned to the initial cadre of the 67th Fighter Squadron," said Lt. Col. Robert Pekarek, 18th OSS commander. "It was the first time the F-15 was based in the Pacific and it just so happened that the 67th was chosen to be that first squadron. It was quite an honor for him because he was a lieutenant chosen to be on this initial cadre."
Cardin established himself as an outgoing, talented fighter pilot which gave him a unique opportunity: weapons school.
"He was doing very well in terms of his flying and quickly established himself as being a very competent, credible fighter pilot," Pekarek said. "(He was) sent to weapons school and when you graduate from weapons school you become the squadron weapons officer."
However, being a fighter pilot is very dangerous. After flying here for more than three years, graduating weapons school and becoming the weapons officer for his squadron, Cardin lost his life during a training mission.
"(Cardin) was killed in a mid-air collision between two aircraft when they were (training)," Pekarek said. The pilots were practicing basic fighter maneuvers, or what is sometimes called dog fighting. "It is very dangerous; it's like chasing each other with your cars. Unfortunately it was a mishap and he was killed."
Cardin left behind a widow and two-year-old son. A month after his death, a scholarship was started in his honor.
"(His former wife, Becky Cardin) started a scholarship at Southeast Missouri University, which still is going on to this day," Pekarek said. "Later, on June 16, 1983, Bldg. 3382 was dedicated by being named Cardin Hall."
Pekarek found interest in corresponding with Cardin's widow and son during the planning process of the rededication.
"I got to correspond with his widow and with his son and you talk about bringing history to life," he said. "We talk about history being the past but history is not just past, it is very present and obviously it points toward the future. This is a living legacy."
"Like a lot of things that are dedicated, they aren't forgotten, but when (the squadrons) moved they didn't move the plaque," Pekarek said. "When I was here my first time I was in the 67th and I knew this building had been dedicated to him but I didn't think too much of it until I came back here. I said, nobody has done anything about this plaque and it's looking kind of bad and corroded and said one of the things we're gonna do while I'm here is rededicate it."
Pekarek added that rededicating a building represents a renewed commitment and a remembrance and a reflection of the sacrifices made every day in pursuit of freedom.
"The rededication is appropriate because we're renewing our commitment to preserving his legacy," Pekarek said. "Also, the reason this place was dedicated is primarily to honor his sacrifice and it's a reminder for everyone... of the sacrifices that have been made."
He added the importance of maintaining heritage and honoring sacrifices in both war and peace time.
"It's been 30 years and essentially an entire generation has passed, so it's appropriate to renew this honor and make sure it's preserved for future generations," Pekarek said.
Lastly, Pekarek expressed his appreciation for the volunteers and the people who dedicated their time and efforts in making the event a success.
"They've volunteered their time to paint, to clean plaques, just all those little things that are taken for granted when you do anything" Pekarek said. "Not only did I appreciate that, but it helps bring the story back to life and makes it part of our heritage as well."