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The room is all yours

A sign with Col. Michael P. Stapleton’s call sign, “Bam Bam,” hangs above the Heritage Room in the 43rd Fighter Squadron. The Heritage Room was devoted to Stapleton Nov. 7 during a dedication ceremony.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sergio A. Gamboa)

A sign with Col. Michael P. Stapleton’s call sign, “Bam Bam,” hangs above the Heritage Room in the 43rd Fighter Squadron. The Heritage Room was devoted to Stapleton Nov. 7 during a dedication ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sergio A. Gamboa)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Remembrance is brought in different ways, whether it's a birthday, an anniversary or even a room dedication to someone that will never be forgotten.

On Nov. 7, the 43rd Fighter Squadron dedicated their Heritage Room to Col. Michael "Bam Bam" P. Stapleton, who commanded the squadron from 2004 through 2006.

"When we name a heritage room in someone's honor, it is with the purpose of capturing a small portion of their personality in order to pass to future generations," said Col. Derek C. France, 325th Fighter Wing commander. "That is exactly the case here.  'Bam Bam' knew how to live life to the fullest, he had a huge heart, and he loved being a fighter pilot.  I am proud to say that his spirit lives on in all who wear the 43rd FS patch."

Stapleton passed away in 2012, two years later the room was finally dedicated to him.

"There was never a thought of dedicating the Heritage Room to anybody prior to this," said Lt. Col. Bill Creeden, 43rd Fighter Squadron commander. "When 'Bam Bam' passed away and left this Earth and his family too early, there was no question this was what we should do. Not only was he the first person we considered, but he was the only person we did. There was never a question of us doing it, but making sure we did it right."

According to his Air Force official bio, Stapleton graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1988. After excelling through pilot training, he embarked on a career as a fighter pilot. This eventually led him to become the second commander for the 43rd FS, where he was responsible for training air dominance in the F-22 Raptor.

"He was brought down here to help stand up, what is today the only F-22 formal training unit in the Air Force," said Creeden. "He started as the director of operations and came to command starting another legacy of producing a new generation of fighter pilots."

Creeden had the opportunity to train while Stapleton was commander of the squadron.

"He was an incredible leader and the epitome of a fighter pilot," he said. "His presence alone commanded your attention and you immediately wanted to mimic what he did, how he acted and how he handled things as a pilot.

"I don't think you get a sense of how important and impactful the dedication was," Creeden added. "I came in to work that next Monday and walked by the display case and the new sign displaying his name, 'Bam Bam,' and that's when it hit me. What immediately came to mind is who he was and what he represents. For those who knew him, they immediately appreciated the legacy that he left."

More than 100 people were in attendance for the dedication coming from as far as Alaska.

His wife Christine flew in from the Washington D.C. area just for this special day.

"She was not only appreciative, but excited that we have a permanent place for him in the Air Force and also in the 43rd FS that honors her husband's legacy," said Creeden. "What he gave to the 43rd FS, the F-22 community, fighter aviation and the Air Force exemplifies his hard work."

The squadron trains current and future fighter pilots to be the best.

"Our mission is to teach the standard to the next generation and hold the line. There is no better example of this mission than the legacy of Col. Mike 'Bam Bam' Stapleton," said Creeden.