In the latter category are then-Lt. Heather Penney and Col. Marc Sasseville. They were the pilots of the two F-16 fighters scrambled from Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 93. As everyone knows, before the fighters could do that, the passengers and flight crew of that doomed plane fought back against the hijackers and stopped the plan to crash into the Capitol, at the cost of their own lives.
What few people knew until now is that those two Air Force fighters that were sent to intercept the doomed flight had no ammunition. No bullets. No rockets. No way to bring the airliner down. Except to crash into the plane. And that's what they planned to do. As Penney told The Washington Post, "We wouldn't be shooting it down. We'd be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."
Where do we get people like this? People not only willing to chance death in the service of our nation, but who will volunteer to die in its defense. I mean to take nothing away from the people on Fight 93, but the choice they were given was to die in a horrible crash orchestrated by the hijackers and fighting back, almost certainly at the cost of their lives. Lt. Penney and Col. Sasseville were engaged in something even more brave: a willful and willing act of self-sacrifice.
We do not pay our service members enough for that kind of courage. But they don't do it for the money.