Posted on : 31-05-2010 | By : Lynn | In : Uncategorized
Today many Americans will be celebrating Memorial Day in honor of those men and women who fought for what they believe in, our country’s freedom. My father was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam war. He was the guy who flew the jets, mostly at night, down the deep canyons of Vietnam to draw out enemy fire which they would then take photos to know their location. The especially hair-raising part to this was that this was during the time of film, not digital, cameras and so they often had to circle back 2-3 times taking photos until the roll was complete knowing that there was enemy fire hyped up to get them.
Dad didn’t talk with us kids very much about his time in Vietnam. For one thing, evidently there is this code of honor that in the line-up of the fighters, the guys on the ground had it the worst. In my kid’s mind I translated this to mean that by the time you got up to being an officer and a pilot, that really you’re story wasn’t as horrifying (but to us kids, it was) and therefore didn’t get the same deck time as the other guys and their stories of combat.
I remember being a little girl in Japan when my Dad was stationed at Itizuki AFB in Fukaoka, he would go on TTY to check out Vietnam in the early sixties. My mom would pile my brother and I in the car to see my dad off in the early morning hours and we would sit in the car eating donuts and watch the T-38s!!! taking off across the sea into the sunrise.
After Japan, Dad was stationed to train fighter pilots at Webb AFB. Those were good memories in my mind of swim parties at our house up on the only mesa in Big Spring, Texas. My parents would serve what seemed like vats of margaritas and play tons of Herb Alpert and the Tijiuana Brass. It was during this time period that it dawned on my mom that my Dad was choosing the military way of life over ranching his family’s lands. Their fighting got louder and more frequent so by the time Dad was stationed at Randolph AFB, the unraveling of their marriage was in full swing. After their divorce, Dad went to boot camp in Idaho and told us stories of how they had to learn to tie everything way up into the trees, including trash and themselves, so the bears wouldn’t get them. During his time in Nam, there wasn’t the internet then so my mom would record my brother and I to send tapes for Dad to listen to. My parents were really good about keeping the utter horror of the war at bay for us kids. Walter Cronkite was doing a good enough job of that. Dad earned quite a few medals but I don’t know what they were, I know my brother Hamilton could tell you what each are and their reason, I was just glad to have my Dad home and in one piece.
After Nam, Dad was promoted to Lt. Col and stationed at the Pentagon. I didn’t realize it at the time (1971), but it must have taken a lot of courage for him to wear his full dress blues to take the commuter bus from our suburb into D.C. After a few years, he was promoted to full bird Colonel and chose to take the route of Defense Attache. He and my step-mother went through what they called “spy training” learning how to speak fluent French for their next tour and how to watch out for spooks. I was away in boarding school so was spared any kind of fear that could have cropped up. I did stay with them for six months in Belgium when he as Defense Attache, and saw first hand the big “working parties” they would have with many dignitaries from the U.S. and other countries. Because I was convalescing there after a major operation, I spent the first month or so bedridden. During one of these parties, my Dad came upstairs to check on me and was dressed handsomely in his finest attire. I remember him telling me that just in case I thought these parties were all fun, that they were work for them and he took off his jacket and was wet from sweat from his pits and all over his back.
From Belgium to Ottowa, Dad took on another gig as Defense Attache. Our brother, Hamilton can tell you more in depth of what Dad did on behalf of the U.S. in Canada because this was during his early childhood years. Dad retired there and lives there still heavily involved in 12-step work, revitalizing the Yacht Club and generally keeping everyone on their toes who happens across his path. His arms have probably stretched to unusual proportions from playing tennis. His strategy in tennis is to stand grounded in one position and stretch out with his racket as far as he can to slam it back across the net.
Although I know my Dad considers me a bloody liberal and pacifist and he’d probably call me a hippy if he couldn’t find another word to get his point across but that’s okay with me, I understand why he would. I’m grateful for what he believed in still, I’m grateful that he lived his life doing what he felt was the right thing to do and so even if he sends out scathing emails going completely against the grain of what I believe in, it’s okay with me. He’s earned the right in my book.
Thanks Dad. Love, Lynn