Archive for Aviation

Zipless Death, PTSD, and Suicide…

The guided missile attacks that are an important part of Putin’s assault on Ukraine remind me of my own sharply contrasting experience as a fighter pilot in the 1960s. Combined with a recent story of a University of Washington graduate turned drone pilot, it’s brought the horror of today’s remote killing machines home in a heart-wrenching manner.

For seven years I flew state-of-the-art Marine Corps fighters in air-to-air combat, but it was peacetime and my aerial combat took place over California’s Salton Sea. It was the Marine Corps vs. the Air Force. We flew out of MCAS El Toro and the Air Force from bases in the So Cal desert. Engagement was unplanned but both sides entered the restricted area over the Salton Sea looking for targets of opportunity. Our F8s would jump their F-100s or vice versa, and the fight was on. Then, having burned thousands of gallons of JP4, we would return to base and regale comrades at Happy Hour with “war stories” of how we kicked Air “Farce” ass. read more

Reunion Follies…

I hope it doesn’t sound arrogant, but I’m not a fan of reunions. I’ve always thought they were too focused on the past – and often more sad than joyful. Lately that feeling’s been reinforced as a consequence of Stephen Sondheim’s death. Sondheim’s musical theater work is not traditional in the Rodgers and Hammerstein sense. No tunes to whistle. No catchy one liners. No surrey with the fringe on top. I had a philosophy professor who told me Kierkegaard was hard work but worth the effort. I feel the same about Sondheim. read more

Baseball Memories…

When I was a kid, cameras had become common and affordable. Brownie box cameras were the rage. My parents bought one, but rarely took pictures. There are a few of me as a baby, a gap of a few years, and a few more from my elementary school days.
 
When my mother died, I inherited the scuffed leather photo albums, pictures yellowing under acetate, that had been gathering dust in her bookcase. Now, they’re in a box under my desk along with more personal history – journals, notebooks, old letters, and other memorabilia.
 
As an only child, I’m always alone in those early pictures. Most were taken behind our house on Capitol Hill and might be seen as a posed series because of their similarity – all taken against the hedge backdrop in a corner of our backyard.
 
In one photo I’m dressed as a cowboy with chaps and sheepskin vest, six-guns, boots, and a cowboy hat. In another I’m a soldier with a helmet and rifle and yet another shows me in a baseball uniform with long socks and a choked-up bat. read more

My Obituary…

My wife is adamant – no funeral, no obituary, no nothing. Maybe a few friends over for drinks and stories. The only thing she wants is a bench on the Burke-Gilman Trail where bikers and walkers can stop and catch their breath. It’s where she ran, rode, and walked for more than 40 years.

So, how about you, she asks? Do you want an obituary? How about a funeral? Well, I say, I haven’t given it much thought. Well, she says, you need to, because if you go first, I need to know. She’s a career woman, but at heart she’s a family planner, a garden designer and household manager. Always organizing something or someone. read more

Cut and Run?

My son was a student at the University of Colorado when he joined the National Guard. He’d used up the four years worth of college tuition his mother and I promised and needed more to keep going. His focus was on paying for school, but his sport was biathlon (skiing and shooting), and the National Guard was the sport’s biggest financial sponsor.  It was a good option.

He didn’t think he was going to go to war when he signed up. Neither did I when I joined the Marine Corps. It was a remote possibility in both cases but given the circumstances we saw opportunities to learn essential skills that could save us in case it did happen. I became a fighter pilot. He became a Special Forces soldier. read more