And that, right there gents, is our real heritage.
From the beginning, we were people who thought differently than the establishment. We thought of better ways of doing things (operationally) and made them happen whether or not it bent the rules. We have always focused getting the mission done while accepting the inherent danger of hurtling through the air in a metal box while getting shot at and shooting back. We tolerate the associated bureaucracy that enables us to do that job, but we do not admire it.
That is the bureacracy that says we must have heritage uniforms and goal cards to know what an Airman is. I say those things undermine the very essence that makes an Airman. I don't want a PT uniform, a reflective belt, hand-washing Nazis, Core Values, Combat Action Medals, AFSO 21, TQM, CBTs, DTS, or ORIs. If there's a job that needs doing, I want to get into my plane and do it. Sorry if I went over my duty day and didn't request a waiver. Sorry if I wasn't current for that event or if the WX was below mins or if that gauge was inoperative the whole time. I did it because somebody was counting on me to do it. And I'll do it again tomorrow.
That, my fellow Airmen, is our heritage. Unfortunately, that doesn't play well with the brass, who want everyone to feel "included" and equally special. I know the names and the dates that form our history. I know Leon Vance's half-severed foot was stuck in the rudder pedals so he couldn't bail out and that Bernard Fisher pulled his buddy into the back seat after landing while under attack. I know there are plenty of dudes who have done amazing stuff that we have never heard about, which is probably a shame. Do I feel a kinship with the Doolittle Raiders, the 8th AF bombers, and the Air Recue Service? A little. Do I feel a kinship with the guy who was facing long odds but did his job anyway, because that's just the way we do things? Absolutely.
I won't speak for everybody, but that's why shoe clerks are held in contempt. I don't feel a sense of loyalty so much to the Air Force, but to the people get the Air Force's job done. If that's too cynical or jaded, so be it. But you can't legislate a sense of heritage and make me feel it.
So if someone wants to know about heritage, go ask a pilot how many times they think they've almost died, and listen closely.