U.S. general honors Kenai youth with coin

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Civil Air Patrol 1st Lt. Naythen Hansen represented the Kenai Composite Squadron at the National Aerospace Conference in Washington, D.C., April 5 to 10.

While in the nation's capital, the 13-year-old Kenai youth had a number of adventures, including meeting his government representatives and receiving a rare honor from Vice Chief of Staff John M. Keane.

The following is Naythen's story, in his own words:

On April 9, I dressed in my Civil Air Patrol dress blues to go and meet with Congressman Don Young, Sen. Ted Stevens and Sen. Frank Murkowski. The meetings were set for 2:30 in the afternoon. We were going to do some site-seeing beforehand, so, you know what I wore? It was like everyone stared at me. What, hadn't they ever seen anyone in a military uniform? I guess they just hadn't seen a young person in Air Force blues. I'm 13, almost 14, and I had the greatest thing happen to me.

Let me start from the beginning. Last March, I received my Gen. Billy Mitchell award. This is given out through the Civil Air Patrol after you do a series of 16 tests -- eight in aerospace and eight in leadership.

You also must attend eight moral leadership classes and pass a series of eight physical training tests, including running the mile, doing sit-ups, etc. After you complete all this, then you must pass a 100-question test to receive your Mitchell award and become an officer.

In doing all this, I became the youngest cadet in Alaska's history and the third youngest in the nation to receive the award.

My unit sent me to Washington, D.C., to the National Congress Convention on Aero-space Education. While there, I got to meet with our representatives.

I was meeting with Congressman Young in his office. He put me in his chair and said, "Look like you are doing something important," while his aide took our picture. That was so cool. He has done a lot of stuff such as race motorcross, play football and travel all over Alaska.

About 3 p.m., he jumped up and said, "We have to go or we will be late." So we follow him, and he leads us through the building to the tunnels and on the elevator, which all have high security. The tunnels have rail cars with operators in them. We go through the Capitol building in places that our tour the previous day didn't take us and end up on the steps outside of the building.

We were hurrying because Congressman Young doesn't like to be late. We were going to the presentation of the scroll that 10,000 Alaskans signed and sent to the Capitol and to New York. The scrolls were the height of the Pentagon and they said, "Peace, love, joy."

This one was to be hung at the new wall at the Pentagon to show the love of the Alaska people. This was to be presented to Gen. John M. Keane, a four-star general in the Army. He is the vice chief of staff. I was impressed and knee-knocking scared. They unrolled the scroll and took pictures. The press was all over.

After that, Sen. Stevens, Sen. Murkowski, Congressman Young and the general stood with me and took a picture. After the picture, the general reached in his pocket and handed me a coin.

He said, "This is for soldiers who go above and beyond the call of duty, and I feel that you have done that already. Keep up the good work, and let's get together and get you out of those blues and into some greens." He meant into the Army instead of the Air Force. I was so shell-shocked. I looked at the coin. It was so cool.

Then we took more pictures and the press started asking me questions. I couldn't even remember my name. Good thing my mom had written our address and my name on a card and given it to Murkowski's aide. He handed it to them and they wrote it down. They tried to ask me why I was there and why the general gave me the coin, but I was still in shock. I couldn't speak or anything.

I will remember this all my life and hope it helps take me places. For just a few moments, I was standing on the steps of our great Capitol with some very great men of our nation.

I thought to myself, "I just did something that most people will never do."

What a life experience.

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