graphics and stories appearing on this world wide web site or incorporated by
association, except where noted, are the property of the Thailand, Laos
and Cambodia Brotherhood Inc. All stories appearing on this site are
reproduced with the express permission of the authors for posting to the
TLCB website only.
What follows are
poems and reflections contributed by members and visitors to our site. Hopefully
it will answer some of your questions of why we did what we did, how we feel and why we
continue to remain proud of it.
Witnessing the Death of a Nation....
In April of 1975, during the Ford Administration, came the final American withdrawal. Predictably, the North Vietnamese violated the 1973 cease fire that had been hammered out in Paris. When we had naively settled for a cease fire in the Paris accords, we had in reality settled for defeat. The Communists were patient. Seeing they could not win a true military victory with the US, the North Vietnamese had simply bided their time, watching as we reduced our troop strength in South Vietnam. Then, when the time was right, they and the VC began advancing, taking city after city in the South. By then, they knew the remaining American force was too small to stop them, and the best the ARVN troops could do was slow them down. They knew too, they had outlasted us. They knew America had absolutely no will to reenter the fray by sending more troops. After initial half-hearted resistance, the ARVN troops panicked, broke ranks and ran. Hundreds of thousands of refugees flooded the highways heading South, soldier and civilian alike fleeing in terror before the onrushing Communist tide. Saigon would be their last bastion of refuge from the Communist onslaught - or so they hoped! Surely the Americans would send in reinforcements! Surely they would preserve Saigon, the seat of government, at all costs! They were wrong, of course. Saigon would in fact, be their Alamo. For though they didn't know it then, there was no hope for them. The die had already been cast. America had given up on South Vietnam. We had washed our hands of the matter. America would not send in more troops!
Considering the gravity of the situation, with South Vietnam's government rapidly losing its grip on power and its military in full retreat, the "business as usual" atmosphere that still prevailed in the streets of Saigon in the last days was absolutely surreal! Yes, they had heard the hamlets in the countryside were falling, but the population of Saigon seemed unwilling or unable to grasp that it could actually happen to them. While the city went about its daily business, seemingly unconcerned, hurried secret preparations were being made for an emergency evacuation of all remaining Americans. The illusion of calm need be maintained as much as possible, to forestall the inevitable panic and anarchy that would finally grip the city in its ante-penultimate hours. We knew that within days, the North would at last deliver the Coup de Gras to the Republic of Vietnam. And Saigon, that Crown Jewel of the Mekong Delta, quaking and shuddering in her last violent throes of death, would fall to the communists, even as we were airlifting out the last 6,000 American troops and civilian advisors. So it had all come down to this, the most bitter pill of all - America, crumbling from within, had defeated herself! Ho Chi Minh had won the war - not in South Vietnam, but in the streets, the homes, the college campuses, in the print media, and the TV news anchor desks of America! And all the years of misery and sacrifice, the lives wasted, all of the blood spilled had been for nothing!
The final pullout was neither graceful nor honorable. Picture the last minutes at the US embassy in Saigon. It can only be described as a scene of utter chaos. Throngs of terror filled, panic-stricken South Vietnamese civilians assail the gates, hoping to find refuge inside the embassy. Those Vietnamese that are already inside, swarm the landing pad and desperately attempt to claw their way aboard, or cling like flies to the skids of the overburdened choppers as they strain to become airborne. But the "lifeboats" are too few to save everyone, as the US ship of state is sinking. Thereís only enough room for American troops and the few Vietnamese women and children that are their legal dependents. The men aboard are forced to kick the hangers-on off in order to just get airborne. Vietnamese mothers, knowing they cannot go themselves, plead for us to take their babies with us in our retreat. For them, especially those who are half-breeds, the Bui Doi, the "Dust of Life", a life in the States as orphans will be far better than any possible with their mothers in a Communist ruled Vietnam.
But as the chopper engines gain speed, the quickening Whump! Whump! Whump! Whump! of the whirling blades drowns out the screams of those left behind. Some, having managed to hang on until the choppers are aloft, finally exhausted, fall to their deaths in the jungle or the sea below. Just offshore, aboard the carriers, the choppers disgorge their human cargo onto the flight decks. Then, amazingly, the spent Hueys are pushed overboard into the sea to make room for more incoming flights to land. But itís a dire situation, calling for the most desperate of measures! The cost of the gear is no consideration at all. Now, saving as many American lives as possible is paramount!
Meanwhile, sounds of fighting in Saigonís streets beyond the embassy gates draw menacingly near. Inside the gates, terror and confusion reign. We are in full fledged, all-out retreat! As if choreographed, the last choppers have just lifted off the embassy roof as the gates are crashed, and the communists surge into the embassy courtyard to raise their flag and celebrate their victory. South Vietnamís fate is now sealed. Any hopes for their freedom are leaving with the last Americans. And yes, the ever-present American media is there to document our final inglorious defeat for the eyes of the world. It was a defeat that they, themselves, had helped to bring about in large measure.
I remember it was gut-wrenching for me to watch it unfold on the evening news. I was sickened by it. I just wanted to cry! The ugliness of it all was fodder for Pulitzer winning stories, I guess. Iíve often wondered how many of those in the media were secretly pleased by this outcome. The American military establishment had finally gotten its "come-uppance." No matter what they said about "Vietnamization" of the war, instead of leaving victorious, with dignity, we were being chased out of the country, our tails tucked between our legs with the communists nipping at our heels. God help our former South Vietnamese allies, whom we left behind to face the vengeance of the North! In the days and weeks following the pullout, many who did not die on that day would later be hunted down and would lose their lives for having been "the running dog lackeys of the Yankee Imperialists." The atrocities of My Lai would pale in comparison to the atrocities wrought when the North finally gained control of the South. More than 80,000 would be systematically tracked down and summarily executed by the new regime. Tens of thousands more would be sent to "re-education camps" where they would languish for years in virtual slavery. So this was the "better life" that some said the Communists would bring to the people of South Vietnam?
The American public had finally gotten what it had been asking for, but there was no satisfaction in it. As much as America had seemed to want out of Vietnam, when we finally managed to disengage from the conflict, it was sour grapes and bitter wine! For our defeat by a tiny third-world country had dealt a tremendous crippling blow to our national pride. We, the children of the generation that had defeated the Nazi and Japanese juggernauts of WWII, had been handed the hard won torch of victory by our fathers. That torch had been dropped. As a result, we would no longer be able to view ourselves as the invincible international power we had been before! And who would be the recipients of the blame for that? Who else? Americaís anger and frustration over the war and its outcome would be unjustly heaped upon us, the veterans who had unselfishly served in that war!
Jesus said, "Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, then turn and rend you." To far too many Americans, our service to country had been as pearls before swine. They did indeed turn on us. For we who had returned were but living reminders of Americaís ignominious defeat! Someone had to take the blame for it, and what more convenient scapegoat than the men who had fought the war? What supreme irony and injustice! We who were never allowed to win that war, were ultimately burdened with the blame for losing it! It was not for any lack of dedication or valor or fighting spirit. In reality, the American people themselves and the politicians were to blame for that defeat!
I sincerely hope we have
learned our lesson - one which we will never forget.
Hi, my name Is
Valerie and I am a senior at high school in Southern California. In my
Class we are reading a book by the name of Fallen Angels and I was selected to
do a report on how the Vietnam Veterans feel about the wall and how the society
around them reacted when they returned back from Vietnam. I would really
be thankful if you could tell me some of your feelings of the wall and what it
means to you and also the reaction of society upon your return.
Thank you very much,
The following is a message I sent to this young lady in California who asked about Vietnam vets and the Wall. I don't think I've ever been able to express my feelings about the Wall this accurately and I wanted to share with my Brothers.
When we returned
from Vietnam, the people of the United States did not express their pleasure at
seeing us come home. (That's being sarcastic, but it's also true.)
We expected to be welcomed back like our fathers and uncles were following World
War II. Our cold reception was something of a shock. The anti-war
zealots had done their work well, turning our own country against us for doing
what our country demanded we do. There's a strong sense of irony in that.
What we did, almost to the man, was bury our feelings and refuse to talk about
the war and our experiences. The movies started being made and shown; they
all showed the Vietnam vets as losers, drug addicts, pond scum, dangerous,
anti-social sub-humans. The movies pushed us further into our shells.
Meanwhile, we pressed on with our lives.
For example, I stayed in the Air Force for a career, retired, and went back to school and got my degree and teaching certification, and continued school until I got my Masters' degree. This summer I will begin work on a Ph.D. Something like 97% of the other Vietnam vets were also very successful. The movies, the novels, the media portrayals were all wrong. I recommend that you read the book by B.G. Burkett, Stolen Valor. In the book, Burkett destroys the totally accepted myths held by the American people about the Vietnam veterans, and he does it with facts, numbers, and statistics. I recommend it highly.
Okay, that's how society treated us and how we reacted to it. Then, the young female artist, Ling(?), won the design competition and the Wall was built. To many of us, it was too little, too late. To others, it was too long in coming. To some, it was an expression of American remorse and apology to the Vietnam Veterans. I've been to the Wall. Many of the vets I know have been there as well. There are some who have not been able to even approach the Wall. I know one friend who has tried to visit the Wall at least 4 times. The closest he has come is 400 yards; he could go no closer. Those shiny, black panels, engraved with the nearly 58,000 names stand there and no one that I know of can go there and leave without being strongly affected. I bawled like a baby, and I wasn't in combat. I can only imagine the effect the Wall has on combat vets. There is a painting, a print really, that shows a middle-aged vet wearing civilian clothes, crying at the Wall. He is leaning against it, obviously at a panel with the names of buddies killed in the war. What he can't see, but the people seeing the painting can, is that his buddies are touching his hand from the other side. Hell, I'm crying now. America sent us to war as fairly young, naive men. The average age of the Vietnam Vet was 22.8 years old. We did our best and we were winning when we came home, when the politicians in Washington ordered us to quit fighting. We never lost a battle against the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese Army, in spite of what was reported by traitors like Walter Cronkite and Hanoi Jane Fonda. We came home despised for things we didn't do and no one would listen to hear the truth. Our buddies' names are now on the Wall. We feel like we failed them. We feel what is known now as survivors' guilt. We feel that it should be our names on those black granite slabs. It destroys us emotionally to visit the Wall, yet it draws us to it like flame draws a moth. Strangely, while it rips us apart, we are simultaneously healed. It is my fervent hope that all surviving Vietnam veterans manage to make the trip to the Wall. America might have spurned us when we returned, but our buddies on the Wall have welcomed us home.
You asked and I've given you as honest an answer as I know how. If you have other questions, please don't hesitate to ask. We feel that it is our duty to try and help America understand the war and to understand us.
I've liked the name TLC Brotherhood from the day Dusty Henthorn suggested it back in early 1997.
I've never felt the identity problem many of you have discussed; though it has been a keen concern to me from the time I first heard about it. I believe Paul Lee and I were standing in a motel parking lot in Colorado Springs in 1997 when he first revealed to me that he and Dick Anderson had felt like second-class veterans for 30 years because they had ONLY served in Thailand taking care of the FAC aircraft of the 23rd TASS. I was astonished by his revelation. It had never occurred to me throughout 1967, nor at any time since, that the maintenance troops I had worked with wouldn't have understood and appreciated the importance of their work. Out on the flight line at NKP, we didn't talk about our missions because air operations over Laos were classified at that time. I had assumed our MX troops had a much clearer understanding of what we were doing than any of us ever put into words. We were sending out 16 pairs (I think) of Cessna O-1s every day on three-hour missions. We departed to the east and we came home from the east, and you can't go very damn far and back in a Cessna Bird Dog in three hours.
We often went out with four Willie Pete rockets on each bird, and most of those rockets didn't come back with us. Sometimes our birds didn't come back. We'd lost three FACs and their Bird Dogs in the last five weeks before I reached NKP on 7 February 1967. When we started flying O-2s at night, the black birds started getting red silhouettes of trucks painted on the side. So, I had assumed that most everyone understood that we were going somewhere not too far across the Mekong and killing trucks whenever we got a chance.
How much were our MX troops a direct part of our air ops? I have a copy of the NKP News showing 23rd TASS Commander Lt Colonel Pallister and Major Comeau (our Chief of MX) celebrating the 1,000 23rd TASS sortie without an abort. (That must be after Major RTB went home, because he always managed to discover an aircraft problem before he got to the Trail, but that's another story covered somewhat fictionally in A Certain Brotherhood). When you're headed out toward the Trail in a Cessna, you have enough on your mind without needing to worry that your aircraft hasn't been well taken care of. In actuality, the more appropriate phrase would be lovingly taken care of.
Some of you have heard me talk about what it was like to be a rookie FAC on the first few missions over the Trail in a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog. After returning from Personal Equipment (where there was a whole another set of support troops making sure we had top-rate equipment on us if we went down), we got out of the pickup and trudged up the flight line toward our birds. At this point, I was wearing my .38 combat masterpiece, pistol belt, flak vest, and survival vest. I would be carrying my M-16, helmet, and map case (provided in the TUOC by a whole another set of support troops like Alan Moore, and John Sweet, who were trying to be sure we had the latest info on AAA firings, truck sightings, etc. on maps someone had to keep updated). I was also carrying what I called my little bag of bullets. (The bag had clips for my M-16 and got heavier as the tour went along as I tossed in a couple more clips at Personal Equipment every so often. The bag also had my very well taped up hand grenade that Chic Randow had given me after our two-week soirťe at Khe Sahn in late July 1967. Actually the one day in December 1967 when I thought I and a Navy guy might get the opportunity to walk home from about 60 miles out of NKP more likely the Jolly Greens would have given us a ride if I'd ever declared MayDay I had left my bag of bullets in PE. Of course, I still had two clips taped end-to-end with one in the M-16, probably three or four more clips on the sling of the M-16, and a couple more on my pistol belt, so I didn't plan to go down without a fight even without my little bag.)
When I got close to the aircraft with all the things a rookie FAC has on his mind, I was met be a team of 23rd TASS MX troops, who quickly relieved me of most of what I was carrying. By the time I finished my exterior preflight, the MX troops had loaded most of my gear into place. Then, it was time to load me in. For those of you who have climbed into the narrow confines of an O-1 cockpit, you know exactly why I picked that term. Once I was in the seat, sets of hands from both sides helped with shoulder straps, lap belt, helmet connections, etc until I was pretty much hooked up and strapped in and someone closed the door. Then while I was turning on radios and running through checklists, the MX troops ganged up behind the struts and by the tail and pushed me and my Bird Dog out onto the spread of PSP between the two rows of aircraft or between my row and those 5 hangars that separated the Cricket ramp from the main parking ramp at NKP. (Again, imagine this, you're a rookie about to go over the Ho Chi Minh Trail with its massed emplacements of 37mm guns with explosive shells that likely will blow a hole about 3 feet in diameter if one hits you and Uncle Sam is sending you out there in a scrawny little bird thatís wheels don't retract, that can fly with the windows open, and that the MX troops can push all over the ramp.) So, during those first few missions, especially, I really appreciated all the help I got. As I've told some of you, part of the rites of passage of being a Nail FAC over the Trail was when your attitude changed from one of being loaded into your O-1 by all the helpful MX troops to an attitude of strapping the O-1 on like a pistol belt. I continued to benefit from the helpful support of TLC personnel for probably 210 out of my 240 combat missions.
In the summer of 67 I lived in a bunker at Khe Sanh for about 2 weeks. Up until that time we had joked about if we screwed up, what could they do to us, Make us a Forward Air Controller, give us an O-1, and send us to Vietnam? After our little sojourn at Khe Sanh, we didn't joke about that as much anymore.
There is a different feel to the flying when you know guys on the ground might live or die that day, depending on how well you did your job as a FAC. In about 20 missions out of Khe Sanh, I had the opportunity to help recover a seven-man Marine Long Range reconnaissance Patrol that had come under fire; I dived for a low pass over a hilltop when there was some question whether an ambush might be awaiting the company of Marines slogging up the hillside; and I had the opportunity to fly about 45 minutes worth of legalized buzzing over a large convoy heading back down from Khe Sanh to Camp Carroll. Did our two Bird Dogs buzzing overhead (and alongside the trucks) make Charlie decide to wait another day for another convoy that didn't have any crazy USAF FACs buzzing overhead? I'll never know. But I have been supremely confident from that day forward that every Marine or GI aboard those scores of trucks was glad I was up there and would have done whatever they could to help me if I'd been shot down that day trying to keep them safe. That is another example of the brotherhood of Americans helping other Americans we never met.
I offer those examples in contrast to the daily grind of flying out of NKP over the Trail for 24 days in a row each month. Those missions didn't have the same feel as when you knew that today other Americans might live or die because of your airmanship. So, when we flew over empty roads day after day, we had to keep reminding ourselves that those roads were empty because we had the courage and dedication to take our Cessnaís out there every day. So, if we had to keep reminding ourselves, it's more understandable that all the support troops would feel even less immediacy over spending a year on the West Side of the Mekong. Delay and attrition were the names of the game and that isn't very sexy but it saved a helluva lot of lives among our forces down south. Nighttime was a free-for-all, and I saw more fireworks in November 1967 than I'll see combined in all the rest of my years. We forced the North
Vietnamese to drive at night with shielded headlights or no headlights at all, on narrow dirt roads without centerlines, guard rails, reflectors to point out hazards, etc. Next time you're driving through mountains or foothills, think about what it would be without lights or guardrails and having to flee in terror for cover when a flare flashed alive a couple of thousands of feet above you. The nighttime action had certain immediacy, especially when streams of 37mms are going by close enough for you to hear the popping (three nights in a row, thank you). When your fighters/bombers burned a truck, there was a feeling of accomplishment. However, we were there to help win the war in the South, so we knew we didn't save any lives that night when the truck burned. We had to be satisfied with knowing that maybe 3 months from now, an American patrol didn't get decimated because the VC and NVA didn't have the ammunition that was burning along some roadside that would be forever known only to those who fought the battle over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
That's all background to give TLCBers a bit more ammunition and confidence when dealing with other vets who don't have a clue how importance operations out of Thailand were. I haven't even addressed that most of the USAF pounding of North Vietnam came from Thai-based aircraft and a large number of the Arc Lights in the later years came from U-Tapao-based B-52s.
As I said, I've never encountered the problem Paul Lee and Dick Anderson first made me aware of. Often my opening line is something like I flew Cessnaís over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. That usually puts the issue to rest in my case, perhaps because some may decide if this guy was crazy enough to do that then, he might still be too crazy to rile up with any insults about his role in the war. Having heard all your stories about giving up on claiming
credit for your service during the Vietnam War/War in Southeast Asia, you're tempting me to try the following gambit next time, and maybe some of you might try something similar. Maybe I'll say I spent a year in Thailand during the Vietnam War. If I encounter some holier-than-thou reaction, my next line would probably be something like I guess you didn't get killed while you were serving in country. That's likely to get some kind of incredulous reaction. I'd follow up with something like: I guess that means the bullet with your name on it never got to where you were. Maybe he'll start getting the picture. If not, I'll tell him that it's very possible that the bullet or bullets with his name on them were on a burning truck somewhere up in Laos, and if none of us had done our part out of Thailand, he might very well not be standing there today taking part in this
If he doesn't get it, he doesn't get it. If I wanted to get contentious, I would point out that there were some places in-country where you were in more danger of being run over by one of the US Army's 10-ton trucks (sorry, Joe Wilson) than of being zapped by the VC. That wouldn't be my approach unless the person war really, really obnoxious because I respect honorable service to our country in whatever capacity. So whatever role you had in TLC, claim some of the credit for the trucks that burned with some of the bullets that didn't make it down south. Joe Wilson and I have talked about his role as an Army Trucker prowling the roads of Thailand. At NKP, we expended a helluva lot of rockets, bombs, and bullets, and they didn't just magically appear that far up country. We've also talked about how some of the loads included food, toilet paper, medicine, and other basic necessities that on the surface don't seem as war-related as bombs. And some of your other jobs weren't quite as close as the flight-line jobs of Paul Lee and Jim Young and Dick Anderson and Kermit Wilkins, who called those first TLCB meetings way back when. However, we all know it took more than just the support personnel I've mentioned. It's hard to fly a mission if you have dysentery or any of the other variety of illnesses that threatened us all. Food and medical care were critical. Security is one of the basic tenets of successful warfare. And there are others like radar, communications, munitions, air traffic control, morale and welfare, etc., etc., etc. We more than most understand that we lost nine brothers at the Udorn AFRTN Station when and F-4 Phantom crashed into their place of duty. My boss's son died in a motorcycle accident near Udorn. Young Dave Pallister wouldn't have been there if he hadn't answered his country's call while his old man was our old man a few miles southeast at NKP.
Everyone who served in TLC had a part, whatever that part was. As I told Paul Lee standing out in that parking lot in Colorado Spring, You didn't run away to Canada. You went where your country sent you, and carried out whatever duties you were assigned, and you put up with monsoon rains, red dust, snakes, rice bugs, family separations, etc., etc. Be proud of your service and continue with firm confidence that if we all hadnít done our part, they would have had to build a much bigger Wall in Washington, D.C.
Jimmie H. Butler
NKP Feb 67 Jan 68
If you went, and didn't hide, then you served;
Hero is the word that you deserved -
hero is what you were not called
and now, I'm angry and appalled.
Bad enough the country didn't honor you,
now veterans themselves are questioning, too?
Who knew where you would go?
You took your chances when you signed -
who knew where you would be assigned?
You did your duty and because of you
those other vets could come home, too.
If you wore a uniform back then
You are a hero -
You can walk tall among your fellow men.
"A Veteran is..."
America's war veterans come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and ages. Their collective experience spans two world wars and several foreign conflicts. They have followed war mules through Flanders Field, dropped from landing barges onto the beaches of Normandy, faced the icy cold of Porkchop Hill and trudged the rice paddies of the Mekong Delta.
But, regardless of differences in makeup and experience, all veterans share a common bond--a brotherhood of memory and hard-won wisdom that helps define their character.
A veteran is the first man up as the flag passes by on the 4th of July, and the last one down, for he has been a witness to the blood and tears that make this and all other parades possible.
A veteran is a man of peace, soft spoken, slow to anger, quick to realize that those who talk most about the glory of war are those who know least about its horror. He never jokes about war; he's been there, and still sees on memory's vivid screen the wounded and the dying, the widows and orphans; he knows first-hand that no war is good and that the only thing worse than war is slavery.
He is a friend to all races of man, begrudging none; he carries with him the knowledge that it is not the man who is the enemy but enslavement and false ideologies. Those whom he once faced across the hostile battle lines, he now esteems as his brothers.
A veteran is at once proud and humble: proud of the fact that in 200 years no foreign enemy has set foot on American soil; and humble in the realization that many of his comrades who helped him make this lofty aim a reality, never returned.
More than anything else, a veteran loves freedom. He can spend a whole afternoon doing nothing--just because it suits him, and just because he has paid the price to do what he wants with his time. He also takes a personal pride in the freedom of others--in men and women attending the church of their choice; in friends voting how they choose; and in children sleeping quietly, without fear to interrupt their slumber.
A veteran is every man grown up a little taller--a person who understands the awesome price of life's intangibles of freedom, justice and democracy. His motto is to live and let live. But, if he had to, if he had to choose between servitude and conflict, the veteran would once again answer a call to duty.
Because, above all---above all else---a veteran is an American.
Contributed by Brother Dan Decker
|What is a Vet?|
The above contributed by Brother Dennis La Follette
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
I Watched the
flag pass by one day
It fluttered in the breeze
A young Airman saluted it,
and then he stood at ease.
I looked at him
So young, so tall, so proud;
With hair cut square and eyes alert,
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how
many men like him
had fallen through the years
How many died on foreign soil
How many mothers tears?
How many pilots
planes shot down
How many died at sea?
How many fox holes were soldiers graves?
No, Freedom is not Free.
I heard this
sound one night,
When everything was still.
I listened to the bugler play,
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just
how many times,
Taps meant "Amen",
When a flag had covered a coffin,
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all
of the mothers, and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands,
with interrupted lives.
I thought of a
at the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves at Arlington,
No, Freedom is not Free.
Thanks to Brother John Parker for bringing the above poem to our attention.
"The Crew Chief"
Say what you will about him. Arrogant, cocky,
boisterous & a fun loving fool to boot. He has earned his place in military
history. He has served his fighter jocks well, from the fabric covered prop
aircraft of World War I to the highly sophisticated F-4 over the skies of Asia.
Few of his kind have achieved the medals bestowed upon a hero. He has been the
man behind the ace's, from Rickenbacker to Olds. Who but he knows the pride,
determination, courage and sacrifice needed to maintain a combat ready fighter
aircraft. What greater feeling of accomplishment after hours & days of
preparation to kick the chocks & give the clear to taxi signal. This is what
the Air Force is all about. The exhilaration of hearing your pilot explain the
kill he has made and knowing you made that possible. The terrifying heartbreak
when notified your aircraft has gone down are feelings known only to the Fighter
Little will you be remembered for the isolated tours, family separations & fighter deployments anytime, anywhere. You will know that you were there & a part of something big. You have been in the arena whether it be in the frozen wastes of Thule, the blistering heat of Wheelus or the monsoons of Asia. Without you the wheels do not turn & the birds do not fly. Hold your head high with the realization that the Fighter Mechanic is a breed of his own & is the best. Yours may be a dying breed, but drink your beer & break your glass knowing you experienced a way of life that others in the future will be denied.
The above was contributed by Brother Bill Edmiston.
I believe in America because I am America. I am black, white, yellow, and red. I am a grocery clerk, an accountant, a housewife, and a soldier. I am German, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish and Indian. I am Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Muslim. I'm liberal, conservative Republican, Democrat, and Independent.
Above all, I'm optimistic. I have fought wars of words and might, in order to keep my people free, and I have withstood internal strife fierce enough to crush lesser nations.
I am a country which holds respect for the ideals of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." My citizens have the right and the responsibility to let me know when they're either dissatisfied or supportive.
My people can, without fear of retribution or harassment, disagree or chastise their Government through a free election system or by single protest. I am a nation of independent thought. Even through my verbal and military confrontations, my people have stood together as the United States of America. They have demonstrated the Nation's character with honor, dignity, pride, and regard for the basic rights of all persons, regardless of their race, color or national origin.
I am a country to be proud of and I BELIEVE IN AMERICA.
© 1981 Linda E. Hill Norway (reprinted by permission)
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