Veterans Day 2014: Looking Back
As a kid I kept a scrapbook of the war in Europe and the Pacific.
I pasted in maps with lines and arrows crossing France and Russia.
My brother and I collected airplane cards - fighters and bombers
with their top speeds - Bell Aircobra, Lockheed Lightning, Thunderbolt,
and Mustang. We built solid wood models and balsa wood airframes
and gliders and folded our swept-wing paper airplanes.
The next war came in Korea during high school. Gull-winged Corsairs,
and Banshees battled Soviet MIGs. The Navy put me through college
and offered flight school at graduation. By the time I had my wings
the world was caught up in a cold war. Flying from the deck of an
aircraft carrier in Grumman Trackers, we were submarine hunters in
Cuban waters and the mid-Atlantic. In Cuba the Soviets backed down,
brought their submarines to the surface after weeks of tracking, and
we took photos of their missiles being shipped back east.
With my obligation complete I left the Atlantic and settled down to earth
for a mining career and graduate study in Minneapolis. But back on
campus I couldn’t ignore the contrails in the sky as I walked between
classes. One morning I drove to the air station and asked for a reserve
squadron with something I could fly. That is how I joined a helicopter
squadron and returned to Pensacola to learn how to hover, then cruised
to Key West to search for submarines with dipping sonar.
By this time Southeast Asia was claiming a half million U.S. troops in a
war against North Viet Nam. Once a regular officer but now a reservist
I saw that no reserves were ever called up to fight this war - just
draftees and career military. I left the helicopter squadron and finished
out my federal service as an engineer in the naval research reserve -
taking active duty for training in ocean science projects.
It’s a dangerous world we live in today. If I were twenty one again
I would be back up in the sky.