Bob Certain was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1947. He received his commission in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program on June 9, 1969. Certain was trained as a Navigator-Bombardier on B-52 Stratofortresses and began flying combat missions in Vietnam in 1971. On December 18, 1972, Charcoal 01, the B-52G that Captain Certain was flying on, was hit by two surface-to-air missiles over Hanoi and the crew was forced to eject. Certain and two other crew members survived the crash and the following 101 days as Prisoners of War of the North Vietnamese. He was released during Operation Homecoming on March 29, 1973. After his return, Certain became an Air Force Chaplain and went into the Air Force Reserve on September 2, 1977. As a Reserve Chaplain, Col Certain served at Kelly AFB, Texas, Keesler AFB, Mississippi, Eaker AFB, Arkansas, Lackland AFB, Texas, in the Strategic Air Command at the Command Chaplain's Office, in Air Mobility Command at the Command Chaplain's Office, and at the Staff Chaplain's Office at the USAF Academy before retiring from the Air Force Reserve on July 8, 1999. In civilian life, Bob has served as parish priest in Episcopal Churches all over the United States. Reverend Certain officiated and preached for the Ford family at President Gerald Ford's funeral in January 2007. He published his autobiography, "Unchained Eagle, From Prisoner of War to Prisoner of Christ" in 2003, and is the founder of the Unchained Eagle Memorial and Benevolent Society.
His Legion of Merit Citation reads:
Chaplain, Colonel Robert G. Certain distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the United States as Senior Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the Senior Staff Chaplain, United States Air Force Academy, Colorado, from 30 June 1995 to 8 July 1999. During this period, the exemplary ability, diligence, and devotion to duty of Chaplain Certain were instrumental factors in the establishment of the Chaplain Service at the Air Force Academy as a preeminent total-force care-giving agency. His warrior heroism, unsurpassed leadership abilities, and formidable pastoral competency converged in his role as a strategic leader in the Chaplaincy to effect needed changes in the total-force approach to ministry that will shape pastoral care for the Air Force well into the 21st Century. The singularly distinctive accomplishments of Chaplain Certain culminate a long and distinguished career in the service of his country and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
His Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Citation reads:
Captain Robert G. Certain distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as a B-52 Navigator near Hanoi, North Vietnam on 18 December 1972. On that date, while engaged in one of the largest conventional bombing raids ever amassed in the recent history of aerial warfare, Captain Certain's aircraft received significant battle damage as the result of extremely heavy surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft artillery fire. Captain Certain and his crew were in quest of massed supplies, communications equipment and transportation lines in order to eliminate the aggressor's capacity to initiate an offensive. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Captain Certain reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.