STORIES OF SERVICE: U.S. Air Force Veteran Hannah Clarke Talks About Military Service, Life’s Challenges
By Sreve Wilson // January 25, 2022
SIT DOWN WITH STEVE • STORIES 0F SERVICE
SIT DOWN WITH STEVE: Hannah Clarke, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, grew up near the Merritt Island Airport so it’s no surprise that she fell in love with airplanes and dreamed of flying.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Hannah Clarke, a Veteran of the United States Air Force, grew up near the Merritt Island Airport so it’s no surprise that she fell in love with airplanes and dreamed of flying.
At a young age, she attended a Young Eagles event, an organization that takes young kids up for an airplane flight.
According to Clarke, that is what “Inspired me to want to be a pilot.”
It was about that time that she started thinking about serving in the military.
Fast-forward to her time at Merritt Island High School and like a lot of students, Clarke was not sure what direction her life was going.
It was during those critical high school years that she read the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.
Unbroken is a biography of World War II veteran Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star who survived a plane crash in the Pacific Theater, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war in three Japanese POW camps.
Unbroken was then made into a motion picture in 2014 that was produced and directed by Angelina Jolie.
“The book literally changed my life,” said Clarke. “Then and there I decided I wanted to be a winner and take control of my own life.”
Clarke took two years of Army JROTC at Merritt Island High and said it helped her get ready for the military.
“It instilled that sense of pride in your country,” said Clarke.
She knew she was going to enlist in the military after high school but didn’t know which branch. Clarke narrowed it down to the Navy and the Air Force as she was training to get her private pilot’s license, so she knew for certain that she wanted to be around airplanes.
The U.S. Air Force is where Clarke eventually chose to enlist and worked as an In-Flight Refueling Specialist. It was exactly what Clarke wanted to do: “I loved that job,” she said.
It was a challenging job as Clarke was deployed to the Middle East four times and accumulated more than 600 combat hours, with about 90 sorties under her belt.
Clarke spent four years in the Air Force and said the sense of service instilled in me.”
She went on to say, “it’s not all about me all the time, it’s about the greater good of serving the nation. And I took a lot of pride in that.”
Clarke’s strong faith has carried her through some rocky times. She will be the first to tell you that it has not been easy and that she still has some challenges ahead.
She said it best when she said, “You need to trust in God and don’t be afraid to ask for help.” She emphasized, “don’t ever be afraid to reach out and ask for help. It is a very strong thing to do.”
Clarke has done things and seen things that most 23-year-olds have not. She is wise beyond her years and will eventually do whatever she chooses in life. She has the mindset of a winner, and that is going to take her a long way.