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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Veteran's Day, 2011

It has been eleven years since I separated from the Air Force, and 24 years since I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.  The years have erased a lot of the feelings which I had while on active duty, especially the chafing awareness that I had given up my freedom while serving our country.  Instead, most of the thoughts I have now are how blessed I was to serve in the military.

Here below is a picture from the Summer of 1988, when I got to take an 'incentive flight' in a jet trainer.  More on incentive flights in a moment.  Looking at this picture brings all the memories of that day back to me.  I was scared, especially after being 'briefed' on how to operate the parachute strapped to my back if it did not automatically deploy.  We also were shown how to use the heavy knife to break through the canopy in the event that became necessary.  Then there is that little thing called acraphobia which I have.   I went anyway, and had a wonderful time actually controlling this airplane under the watchful eye of a flying instructor's instructor.

On the flight out of San Antonio, I wished I still had that parachute.

Incentive flights were intended to attract physicians into Aerospace Medicine, which is a lot of primary care medicine combined with occupational medicine.  The flying sounded like fun, and I was really excited to go on this little jaunt above San Antonio, but I couldn't get enthusiastic about doing family practice.  My thoughts turned out to be fairly accurate, as I found out years later how Flight Surgeons would qualify for their flight pay if they were stationed at one of the bases in San Antonio: they would spend their required flying hours in the passenger seats of a C-5 as their pilots practiced a maneuver called a 'touch and go.'  For those of you who don't know, touch and go is where the pilot comes in for a landing, briefly allowing the wheels to 'touch' the runway before roaring back into the air.  That doesn't sound toooo bad, until you realize that the passenger seats in the C-5 are located behind the cockpit - on the top level, above the cargo bay - and they don't usually have all the creature comforts of commercial airliners.  No air conditioned vent blowing on you from above, and no windows.  Oh, and one more thing: usually the seats are all positioned so the passengers all face backward.  So just imagine how comfortable it must be, flying in the low altitude hot air above San Antonio, while facing backwards in sweltering heat and lots of turbulence.

That is why this aircraft was smiling when I took its picture - also in 1988:

I took this picture while standing on the roof of a car we rented from a place in San Antonio called Chuck's Rent-A-Clunker.  I was trying to eliminate all the barbed wire from the photograph.

I was in the Air Force for 13 years: nine years in the Inactive Reserves and four years active duty.  I spent two weeks in El Salvador, anesthetizing children and adults for eye surgery as part of a humanitarian mission.  I was never issued a weapon, although I had to qualify with a 9mm pistol as part of my training for mobilization.  During my last year on active duty, I could not be farther than 50 miles from the base in the event I was deployed at a moment's notice.

A week after I separated from the Air Force, I had a medal delivered to my home.  It was a commemoration for my service to our country.  It got me thinking at the time, that all I ever did was wake up every day and go to work, caring for active duty personnel, retirees, dependents - especially the children - and any trauma victim who landed in our emergency room.  For that, just doing my job, I got a medal.

For some veterans, just doing their job meant a lot more than selecting what uniform to wear today and then battling the early morning traffic to get to the base.  For most, just doing their job meant putting their lives on the line for the good of all of us back home.

Please pray for those who never came back, or for those who came back scarred, damaged, forgotten.  I have heard their cries in military and veteran's hospitals.

Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them.  May their souls, and all the souls of the Faithful Departed, rest in peace.


Natalie said...

Thanks for your service!

dadwithnoisykids said...

@Natalie, thank you for yours - and Klayt's - as well. God bless!

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