Space Force: The man behind the motto

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Devin Boyer
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

On Dec. 20, 2019, the Department of Defense received its newest addition, the U.S. Space Force (USSF). In the following months, along with the creation of the USSF logo, the infant military branch began to shape an image of its own. It still needed, however, a motto.

What separates each branch is not only their looks, but the heritage and legacy that can be found in the services’ mottos. The U.S. Marine Corps motto is “Semper Fidelis” – “Always Faithful.” The U.S. Coastguard’s is “Semper Paratus” – “Always Ready.” The U.S. Air Force motto is “Aim High...Fly-Fight-Win,” and one of the U.S. Navy’s unofficial mottos is “Semper Fortis” – “Always Courageous.”

As a component of the Department of the Air Force, it is only fitting that an Airman would craft the motto for the USSF. Airman 1st Class Daniel Sanchez, 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs broadcast journalist, is that Airman.

Sanchez grew up in Haverstraw, New York, and described his childhood as a quiet one. At 16, he left his first job at the local library and jumped into performing magic at a nearby mall to sell magic kits for an employer. To secure the job, he had to memorize a five-page sales script and learn five simple magic tricks.

Posted at a kiosk in the ninth largest mall in the U.S., Sanchez performed the same five tricks to people passing through. He interacted with many types of personalities. Some would try to figure out the trick just to prove they could, while others just wanted to be wowed. On rare occasions, professional magicians approached him to show him new tricks. He then realized there was more to magic than he thought.

“That was the beginning of serious magic,” he said. “I’d go to Barnes and Noble and buy some magic books, learn them, and then get yelled at for doing them at work instead of doing the tricks we sold.”

After high school, he obtained a computer science degree, worked as an assistant English teacher in Japan for middle school children and even held a security guard job for the same mall he performed magic in. Eventually, he decided to leave New York and move to Florida to change the pace.

Like a boomerang, magic found its way back into Sanchez’ life.

“During the holidays, my cousin asked me, ‘How come you never did more magic? You’re really good,’” Sanchez recalled. “So, on a whim, I searched for magic shops near me and found one 40 minutes away.”

After realizing his potential, the shop owner offered him a job.

“That’s when they trained me and helped me develop my own show, to perform magic parties for kids and earn money,” Sanchez said.

Magic taught Sanchez important life lessons, making him who he is today.

“It taught me about dedication,” he said. “It’s not an easy skill. Some tricks are really hard to do. They require a lot of sleight of hand or crafting props. I didn’t even realize how much time I’d spent learning tricks. My dad would tell me that he would hear me late at night, ‘til three in the morning dropping props. He could hear coins dropping on the floor, again, and again, and again, while I was trying to figure out how to hold the coin a certain way or make it vanish.”

Because of his dedication, Sanchez was able to master his craft. He even had his own stage name, Danny Sanz.

Next to dedication, Sanchez learned the importance of perspective.

“Perspective is everything,” Sanchez said. “Someone standing two feet to the left isn’t going to understand the trick, they’re going to be amazed by it, and they’re going to think they just saw something impossible. Someone standing two feet to the right saw everything and doesn’t know why the other person is amazed. That shift of perspective makes the difference. In life, when there’s an argument, you have to understand they’re not seeing what you’re seeing. Understand different perspectives and respect them.”

His experiences, whether from being a magician or one of his many other adventures, stem from his desire to live an interesting life.

“We all yearn to feel significant,” he said. “If I was telling my life story to myself, I want it to be varied, large scale, interesting, significant. I'm the hero of my life. I'm trying to develop into the most interesting person I can be. We should all try.”

A drive to be interesting is what sparked Sanchez’ desire to contrive a motto for the Space Force. In technical training at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, whispers of the Space Force lurked the halls and classrooms.

“Everyone has the same ideas when they start hearing about it,” Sanchez said. “What are they going to call them, Spacemen?”

While thinking of ideas for the motto, Sanchez discovered a similarity between the existing services’ mottos. Many of them were Latin phrases.

“I would sing the Coast Guard’s song when jogging, and theirs has the line, ‘Semper Paratus is our guide,’ and I didn’t know that before I learned the song,” he said.

Using a Latin translator, Sanchez came up with several ideas, but the one that stuck out between him and his classmates was “Semper Supra.”

“Semper, meaning ‘Always,’” he explained. “There is no end to the domain of space. From the moon to Mars and beyond. The Space Force is meant to relentlessly protect and monitor space. There is no night in space. There is no day. And this un-ending time is the same as our resolve.

“Supra meaning ‘Above,’” Sanchez continued. “This represents the age-old impulse of human kind to look up. To see the skies and stars, and wonder what else is out there. It is also symbolic of our standards of excellence. It is a reminder to our enemies that we are watching. And it is a reminder that no matter what we have accomplished, there is no ceiling or boundary. There is always something farther out and higher up. And if we mean to go there, we will protect ourselves from those who mean us harm. Our citizens will rest easier, knowing there is always a shield above them.”

After Sanchez arrived at his first assignment with the 86th AW, the USSF announced its commencement. He then took the opportunity to submit his idea up the chain of command. To his surprise, Gen. John W. Raymond, USSF Chief of Space Operations, called Sanchez to personally thank him for his contribution to Space Force history.

“It was the perfect fit,” Raymond said. “I just want to say again, thanks for suggesting it. We’re proud of your motto; we’re proud to have it. You’re a part of history.”

Now, Airman Sanchez, or magician Danny Sanz, will forever be written in history as the one who coined the Space Force motto, “Semper Supra.”

“I want to be part of something that matters, that's historically significant,” Sanchez said. “I want to look at my life and be able to compare it to people who contributed. If it's a simple, good idea, that symbolizes more than just the sum of its parts, it will last. I think I've done that.”