Friday, January 20, 2012
These days with the advent of an often unknown, sometimes unseen enemy, much has been made of the men and women who make up the quick response element required to combat and defeat it. They fight in any kind of environment imaginable. They live and fight thousands of miles away, often in the backyard of the enemy. I believe their courage and dedication to this country is second to none. Even so, throughout the ages many others have answered this clarion call. I was blessed to live amongst more than a few. My father was a thirty plus year veteran of the United States Air Force. From a hardscrabble youth, which served him well, he joined the Air Force as an airman (the lowest rank) and worked on B-25's and 26's as a mechanic. His mechanical aptitude and dedication led to his being accepted into the "Bootstrap Program"; a career path which would allow him to transition into a commissioned officer. He was one of the last to be offered this opportunity. From there came flight training at Lackland AFB near San Antonio. What little I know of those early times is a story of someone using his assigned aircraft and crashing it. What remains is a control wheel; they didn't use joysticks then, that my father recovered from the wreckage. The Korean war followed and us kids soon after. A tour in England was next, with tours of Europe and all it offered. Then came a tour in Brazil where a world of wonderment awaited me. My father took me along on trips to the interior of Brazil, where we intermingled with natives, hunted and explored. My father then served two tours in Thailand amassing over one hundred sorties over Vietnam. Somewhere amongst all the travelling he managed to complete his education and rose in the ranks till his retirement as a full Colonel. In his travels he had befriended Frank Borman, the astronaut, and a post military career in the airline industry followed. (Frank was then the President of Eastern Airlines.) He never lost his appetite for exploring and became a medalist with the Explorers Club and a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. In my travels with my father I rubbed elbows with astronauts, explorers, royalty and more. Very few were braggarts or blowhards. They let their achievements speak for them. My father recently passed and, according to his rank and many awards, was accorded a funeral at Arlington National Cemetery with the requisite honors. I feel privileged to have joined him in his life's journey, both as a son and a admirer.