Brigadier General Robinson Risner, U.S. Air Force (Ret.)


“Few persons have reached their goal without determination. During my 33-year Air Force career, I was surrounded by people who were better educated, had a higher IQ and many with greater talent. However, few had more determination. In addition, I had a strong faith in God. Determination and faith in God are the lynch pins that will take you to your goal.”

When I was a child, my older brother learned how to fly small air-planes and that became my dream. World War II started when I was in high school, and I dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. During high school I decided to attend Bible College but I still wanted to be a pilot. I was only 17 when I graduated from high school and really wanted to enter the Aviation Cadet Program. One of the requirements to be accepted into the program was that you had to be a college graduate. I realized that I didn’t have a chance but one day while reading the paper, I read an article that said if you could pass a two-year college entrance exam, then you could apply to become an aviation cadet. I was only a mediocre student, but I immediately began to pray about the opportunity. Previously I had decided that I was going to go to Bible College. But, I prayed, “Lord, if it is okay for me to go into the military…help me pass that test.”

I was accepted to take the four hour examination. I was the last one to finish. Everyone else had already finished and left. I handed my test to the sergeant who administered the test and started to leave. He said, “Wait a minute. We’re not supposed to give out scores, but in your case, I’m going to make an exception.” He graded the test, looked up at me, and said, “You passed by one point.” I knew the Lord was saying, “It’s OK.”

In Vietnam I came to the conclusion that nothing was more important than a faith in God. Before imprisonment many of us had been too busy to put God first in our lives. A North Vietnamese prison cell changed that. We learned to feel at ease in talking about God, and we shared our doubts and faith. We prayed for one another and spent time praying together for all kinds of things. Our faith in God was essential. Without it I could not have survived.