It’s a shame that wars can’t be decided by the side that sings the best songs! – Ashleigh Brilliant
We all have stories. Some are exciting, some are engaging, some are motivating, and some are boring. My book, Turning Final, A Life Complete, is a collection of stories (some of which are both motivating and boring at the same time!). The following is the story of how I ended up flying T-39s out of Saigon, and was actually given a CHOICE for a military assignment.
I was raised by stepfather who was in the United States Army. As such, I’ve been around the military most of my life. Since I was old enough to think about the future, probably about nine or ten years old, I wanted to be a pilot. Going to see all of the war movies shown during World War II cemented that desire in my mind and heart.
During the movies, I was always frustrated when an enemy fighter would get on the tail of one of our planes and then see how our pilot would try and turn around to see the enemy behind him. With my mom’s help, I wrote a letter to the War Department, saying that our pilots should have rear view mirrors to see behind them. To my surprise, I received a very official looking letter back for the War Department! It thanked me for my suggestion and indicated that they would look into the issue. Pretty soon I started seeing fighters with rear view mirrors on fighter planes. I don’t know if that letter had any bearing on it, but later in my life, every time I got into a fighter that had rear view mirrors I thought about that letter.
Having grown up in the military, I knew there was no other life for me but the Military life. I think that serving ones country can be one of the more noble things a person can do. I don’t know if I would feel that way in a socialist or a communist country, but to be part of the great experiment in human history and to be part of the protection of the Republic we live in that has such a high regard for the each individual, that no other type of government has, is a marvelous feeling.
The glory and honor of a military life is only part of my decision to dedicate my life to the military. I’m sharing a little secret with you, but when I was a young man making lifetime decisions, one of my driving motivations was the desire for my stepfather to be proud of me.
The life I chose is a life I’m proud of. I left the Air Force in the 1960s for my family, but I don’t regret any of the time I spent in the service.
What drives you forward in life? How do you make your life decisions?
The question I am asked most frequently is, “how do you remember so much detail and so many incidents that you have experienced?”
I respond that about two years before I started writing the book, I carried a day timer around with me every where I went. When I thought of an incident that I felt was “write worthy,” I jotted down a one line memory jogger because as you go through each day your memory brings up incidents that you have been involved with and then you lose them and can’t get them back. When I started to write the book, I had over 400 one line memory joggers of incidents that I thought were write worthy. I used about 2/3 of them.