Nearly 1000 Air Force careers take off

Posted at 5:32 PM, May 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-23 19:32:49-04

It was an emotional day as nearly 1000 cadets walked across the stage, accepting their diplomas and tossing their hats into the air at the United States Air Force Academy.

After four long years, this is the moment they’ve been waiting for, greeted by a flyover from the Air Force Thunderbirds.

"I didn’t think it would ever come!" Erica Drakes, a USAFA graduate said.

984 cadets soaring to new heights.

"It’s a dream come true, it’s been a long four years but it’s worth it," Riley Mix, a USAFA graduate said.

"It’s incredible, it’s the most incredible experience, the last four years have taught me so much and to see it all kind of come up overhead, it was incredible and to be with all of these incredible people, that’s what makes it really special," Carley Hatcliff, a USAFA graduate said.

Many admit, the steps they took to get here weren’t always easy.

"It has been a really difficult time but I think I’m a better person for it," Hayden Ownen, a USAFA graduate said.

"You learn how to function off a little bit of sleep and you just get a lot tougher and I don’t know how I did it! I don’t know how any of us did it!" Hatcliff said.

But as Defense Secretary James Mattis said in his commencement speech, they didn’t do it alone.

"It’s the combination of a lot of blood for him, sweat for him, tears for me and a lot of prayers," Amanda Ownen, a parent said. 

As for what’s next…

"Hopefully I’ll get in one of those," Hatcliff said as the Air Force Thunderbirds flew above her.

Most are headed to flight school.

"There’s a lot of good people that graduated from the Air Force Academy today and I’m proud to be standing beside them today," Mix said.

And their message for the younger ones looking up to them…

"Nothing is impossible and through hard work, you can do anything," Owen said.

All of the graduating cadets will become Second Lieutenants in the United States Air Force.