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 have been retired now from the Air Force for 37 years and fully retired from commercial aviation and the maritime industry for almost 14 years. I see the world as I assume everyone else sees it – through their own eyes. I have experience in war, but not as a mother. I’ve piloted planes and boats, but I’ve never driven a tank. Some people assume I see the world differently because of my experiences, but in truth, we all have experiences that shape our worlds.
One thing I will say is this (in regards to how I see the military, as opposed to how the average citizen sees it): even when we’re not fighting, we’re working to protect you.
I have been asked to be the guest speaker at a number of events. At one such event, I told the audience that their military is always in harms way, whether there is conflict somewhere on the earth or not. Even when there is no active conflict to be engaged with, we train to be prepared. I shared the story of an experience as an instructor pilot – I was training SAC crews in the KC-97 to complete aerial refueling missions. We practiced daytime aerial refueling of fighters or bombers such as the B-47 or B-52 in calm air is not so bad.
I dare you to try refueling a B-52 at night in the clouds, in turbulence. Things get mighty testy, but you have to do it. In times of war, you can‘t say “it’s too dark” or “the visibility isn‘t good enough” or “it’s too bumpy.” That doesn’t work. During a war, the fighter or bomber you’re working with is desperate for fuel. While the public is asleep at night, snuggled in your bed, SAC crews are up there training for the worst possible situations.
The point is this: your military is always in harm’s way, whether in actual combat or training for combat. Many people don’t realize this and as such, take times of peace for granted. Your enlisted neighbor, friend, cousin, coworker may not be fighting overseas, but they’re fighting at home.
I wish that our society had a greater understanding of our military. Ever since WWII, we have had a first class military. When we asked our military to do a job they got it done. Not only in the people we had but the training and equipment that they had to get the job done. I sincerely hope that it stays that way. It’s only by recognizing the dedication and hard work of our soldiers that it can.
When I returned from Vietnam and even before I left, I was sickened by the way our troops were treated when they returned from that war. It was as if the public blamed them for the war. In my anger I constructed this poem, which is in the last page of the Vietnam chapter of Turning Final.
I wonder why!
I wonder why, in the dark of night,
When I feel a chill in the pale moonlight
and my mind does things I can scarcely tell
as it asks me why my good friends fell.
In the lonesome thought that has begged for light,
Lo, these many years in the pale moonlight.
Does a nation grieve for her long-lost sons,
who have given all so that she might run?
Does the soul regret lost days and nights
as it hangs in space in the pale moonlight?
Was the quest for freedom worth the price?
“Yes, I’d give my life, and give it twice”
My friends would say who have gone away.
Does a nation understand the sacrifice of the soldier man?
The pain the loss of no more days
to watch his family slowly raise?
Then how much is a soldier worth, when violent people scorch the earth?
We all know freedom isn’t free and the soldier man is you…and me…
All are Patriots one by one, until the call is no more fun.
And there wherewith we all shall stand
the duty finds the lesser man.
So listen up all you out there
who go to church and lend a prayer,
think more of what you freedom cost,
who paid the price and what was lost.
And lend a prayer for those out there.
Duty found the greater man
so those of us who breathe free air
may live a life free from despair.