At KING AEROSPACE, earning the right to wear the gold wings on your chest is something that is taken very seriously. Once an employee earns the right to wear the gold KING AEROSPACE wings, the employee is presented the wings in a formal ceremony. The KA logo is embroidered on a shirt presented to the employee. Hats, jackets and additional shirts with the KA logo embroidered on them are sometimes awarded at a later date.
When shirts or hats need to be replaced or are retired, the shirt or hat is returned to KING AEROSPACE, where supply personnel cut the gold wings out of it, destroy it, and forward the harvested wings to the home office in Addison, Texas. This process has taken place for 25 years. All of the returned wings have been stored in the home office.
These wings represent the dedication of the men and women who once wore them and earned them through a vote of their peers. All of the men and women awarded wings demonstrated their commitment to KA’s mission and values. Some of the wings were retrieved because the holder was no longer a good steward of the values that the wings represent. Over the past 25 years, there have been hundreds of people who “tried out” for the KA Team but failed to make it and never received the gold wings.
Recently I decided that it was time for the next step of the wing preservation process, which is to preserve them at my ranch chapel. I built this chapel to reflect my commitment to God, Country and Family. While in this chapel, I have received telephone calls from Government source selection committees informing me that KA has been awarded new Government support contracts and I have received calls telling me that KA has not been awarded contracts. In this same chapel, the KA Cornerstone principles hand in a gold frame adjacent to a framed display of the Ten Commandments. Above the entry door I carved the words “In God We Trust.” The words “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” is incorporated into the stained glass window behind the altar. Inside the chapel are prayer books from the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. and Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia, the home church of our first President, George Washington. There are countless other things in the chapel that have heartfelt meaning to me. The wings housed in the chapel serve as a reminder to me and to anyone else who see them of the dedication of the men and women who once wore them over their heart as they served God, Country and Family.
The reclaimed wings are being kept in the ‘spirit” of good company. Within 5,000 feet of my chapel is the horrible site where the “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle, and his friend Chad Littlefield were killed. During the murder trial of the man that killed them, several state and federal law enforcement expert witnesses and investigators visited my ranch and chapel as a quiet place and refuge from the media frenzy. I was also very blessed to have been allowed to host the final reunion of World War II aviation prisoners of war from Stalag 13, who met in my chapel and Plane Crazy Saloon. This group was the basis for the television show “Hogan’s Heroes.” I was also blessed to have hosted a Marine aviator’s retirement ceremony in the chapel. At least in my mind, the spirit of God, Country and Family lingers in the walls of my special sanctuary located in the middle of nowhere.
I still wear the gold wings daily and I often share with our people that, “These wings are gold not because of the thread but because of the commitment and heart of those who earned the right to wear them.” I am honored that these wings have been worn all over the world in support of those we serve, those we employ and those we encounter as we earn a fair profit with God’s help! May our wings always retain their value out of respect of those who have given so freely to keep them gold in service to God, Country and Family!
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.