THE JOURNEY TOWARD earning my wings in life began long before I earned my Air Force wings. The youngest of four children, I was raised on Long Island, New York, in a very competitive middle-class family of overachievers, led by the first “general” I ever served with: my overprotective mother. Sylvia (or “Silly,” as we lovingly called her) had my conservative, workaholic dad, Lenny, as her wingman. They both grew up dirt poor in Brooklyn, with no real opportunity to go to college. My dad served eight years in the Navy before he became an airplane mechanic. My mom stayed home and raised the kids.

Together they taught my sister, two brothers, and me the value of hard work, education, integrity, compassion, and, most of all, family. ...

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