Veterans Day Q&A with James Kirschner

Within the LIFT Academy community, we are privileged to have a diverse group of students and instructors, many of whom are veterans. Today, we pause to acknowledge and appreciate the service, dedication and sacrifice of our veterans.

James Kirschner, LIFT Academy Student. Started at LIFT in July 2023. 

The military background of James’ family played a significant role in shaping his decision to serve. With a grandfather who served in the United States Navy and an uncle who experienced the hardships of the Vietnam War, James was inspired by their bravery and sacrifice. Furthermore, having a father who worked as an everyday hero as a firefighter, James witnessed firsthand the discipline and dedication required in uniformed services, which ultimately fueled his desire to join the Air Force. 

Since his childhood, James possessed a love and fascination for aviation and the thrill of flying. Driven by his dreams, he made a resolute choice to pursue this passion. James wholeheartedly committed himself to the Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) program. He honed his skills and flew a diverse range of aircraft during active duty. After serving in the military for 9 years, James was medically retired in 2011, leaving behind a remarkable legacy. 

“Veterans Day held a special significance for me growing up as I witnessed the greatest generation that gave us the privileges and freedoms we have today. The ability to choose our own paths in terms of work and education is a privilege we should never take for granted. On Veterans Day and every day, I think of those who are separated from their spouses or children. It is all too easy to overlook the sacrifices they endure and take that for granted. It was my wife and children who lived it and made sacrifices greater than my own.” 

After the Air Force, James became a director for business development before pursuing a pilot career. “I got the itch to fly again,” he said. The most touching part? James is learning to fly in step with his son. “It makes me so proud to see my son take off, and it is so good to be back in the air feeling like I am at home,” James told us. 

His advice for his son and anyone pursuing a career in aviation is this: “First and foremost, it’s a profession that you need to be a continual student of. Even aviators with 5,000 hours of flight experience still have so much more to learn. It’s not a punch in and punch out kind of profession; you have to live it, and it has to be in your blood. You must strive to become a master of the aircraft. Don’t fear what can happen to you, just be the best at it. Learn from everybody. With aviation, the most learning comes from engaging with your peers. Then, pass down what you learn to others. If you try to do aviation on your own, you will eventually hit a wall. You need people to lean on and learn from.”