The dawn of the future starts in the past

  • Published
  • By Amn Michaela R. Slanchik
  • 22d Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
His love of history began in his uncle’s living room where a book about the Vietnam War laid on display on a large, oak coffee table. His eyes glued to the pages every time he visited.

Once his uncle gave him the book, he took it everywhere. While most 6th graders were reading fictional stories during designated reading time at school, he couldn’t get his nose out of that book.

With the front jacket cover falling off and the spine busting at the seams, Justin Vergati, 22nd Air Refueling Wing historian, studied that book intently throughout his junior and high school years. To this day, he still cracks it open often.

“The photos are lively, the graphics are great, and the images are so rich,” said Vergati.

His passion for learning and documenting history all started with that one book.

He was 11 years into his career in the Air Force Reserve when he received a job offer as the wing’s historian, a civilian position. He separated from the military to pursue what he loved most since his childhood -- history.

“I have always been fascinated with military history and now I’m able to write it,” said Vergati. “It is a very cool feeling to know your work will be some of the first that future researchers and authors will turn to for primary and secondary source material.”

Wing historians are responsible for collecting, documenting and writing historical reports for the units they are assigned. They capture significant accomplishments and challenges experienced by the units which help commanders make future decisions.

Historians also deploy to document combat missions. Within his current position, Vergati deployed recently to Southwest Asia.

“During my deployment, I was able to record the unit's association with the first combat employment of the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast,” said Vergati. “I got to write about the shifts in strategy and policy changes as one presidential cabinet transitioned to another.”

Vergati said it’s essential that history like this be documented to capture combat actions as they happened as a means for future leadership to learn from the past.

“If you don’t learn from history, it will repeat itself,” said Vergati.

To Vergati, documenting history is the only way to make sure it’s accurate. Memories fade, games of telephone turn facts into fictional stories, but pen and paper can’t be altered.

“An event never happened if it wasn’t written down,” said Vergati.