Integrity, loyalty, courage... I could go on and on. God, country, family, duty and honor. The true meaning of these words seem to be lacking in today's society. A son, brother, husband, father, uncle, cousin, and friend... you wanted him on your side. He was loved by many and he is still so deeply missed by many... My dad! He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, so far away from us that we can't make the trip to visit his grave too often. But he lives in our hearts and my memories of him are still so very strong.
This pic was made sometime in the mid 60's, before he went to NAM. His first flying assignment was in the F100 Super Sabre Jet http://pixelcandy3d.deviantart.com/art/F100-Super-Sabre-Jet-277560596
His second flying assignment was in the RF-101 VooDoo. Notice the patch on his flight suit. Very cool! http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=302
He was a RECCE pilot and for those of you who don't know what that is, basically, they took important "tactical" photographs! The motto of the pilots who flew the RF-101 (a one seater)... "Alone, unarmed and unafraid"... Dad was flying missions out of Udorn AFB, Thailand in 1967 - only had a couple of more months left and he would be coming home, when a MIG (Russian made jet flown by the North Vietnamese) fired a heat seeking missile that took out his left engine and set it on fire. He told me much later that when he saw the pilot in the cockpit of that MIG, he said, "You son of a bitch! All I can do is press this button on my joy stick and take your damn picture!" No guns, no bullets! Dad had to try to make it back to safe territory before he had to eject... He was 50 miles from Laos when he had to pull the pin on his ejection seat. It was a few hours later, that the wing commander and chaplain were knocking on our door... The word was "Missing." In other words, they had no clue if he ejected safely, if he was dead or alive!!! For three (3) years he was simply MIA (missing in action).
It was 1970, actually the eve of my 14th birthday, and an important phone call came at nearly midnight... The Committee of Liaison got his name out of NORTH Vietnam. HE WAS ALIVE!!! A POW (Prisoner of War) - no longer MIA! HE WAS ALIVE!!! Praise God!!! Another two and a half (2 1/2) years passed with a few treasured letters his captors allowed him to send. He was released in the third group of POWS, March 14, 1973. A day he loved to celebrate as his second birthday! I won't tell you about the unspeakable torture and horrors he suffered at the hands of his captors. I will tell you that they were real and should NEVER be forgotten!
I was 11 years old when dad was shot down over North Vietnam. I was 10 days from turning 17 when he came home to us. We had our problems. In many ways he wanted the little girl he left behind, but I was all grown up. I had campaigned for the MIAs and POWs all through high school. I had many acquaintances who spit on our flag and protested the war. They spit on our returning service men and treated them like dirt. Another tragedy in our country's history. These acquaintances would say to me..."You of all people should protest this war and spit on our flag. Just look where your father is..." DUH! I often said that my father was living in HELL for their right to spit on the flag and their right to protest the war. These people will NEVER GET IT! They will NEVER understand! And I don't waste my time with them anymore. I am patriotic and proud of that fact! My heart bleeds red, white and blue. Military men and women are NOT war mongers! They're the last people who want to go to war but, they are the ones who serve and go to war because of those who won't and don't! Thank God or your lucky stars that there are those who are WILLING to serve! I will honor our military men and women every day of the week, all year long because I respect their service and their sacrifice for MY rights and yours, whether you respect them and my rights or NOT! I will stop them in public, shake their hand and thank them for their service. My God, some have burst into tears when I did that! They hugged me and I hugged them back! I don't have much money, but if I see one in McDonald's waiting in line, I'm gonna buy that soldiers breakfast, lunch or dinner - whatever the case may be! I am my father's daughter and I am proud of that fact, too!
Dad's last flying assignment was in the RF4 Phantom. http://jetphotos.net/showphotos.php?aircraft=McDonnell%20Douglas%20RF-4%20Phantom
That's the jet he took his freedom flight in back in 1973, you military types will know what that means. He retired from the USAF in 1981, went to law school, passed the bar and served as an attorney until he passed away with cancer in December 1997. Gone, but NEVER forgotten my darling, darling daddy! You were a real man, ALL man and with so very much TRUE GRIT!
Almost forgot to add this... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGigYvztqHE