It was a summer’s day, warm and just a bit muggy. We were playing in the fields behind the house in the Holt Development of Hyde Park. I don’t recall exactly what we were playing, but Cowboys and Indians is a safe bet. Of course in today’s world if we were playing Cowboys and Indians half of us would have to be dressed in Langoti. But I digress.
Anyway, we were running, shooting our cap guns, hiding, running and shooting all over the place. I don’t think anyone was actually killed, and I don’t even think the neighbors, if they were aware of this massive on-going conflict, actually called the police to come arrest us for unnecessary gunplay and violence. We just continued to wage war on each other, changing sides and fortunes as the need arose.
But it was during one of these epic battles that I happened to look to the sky and see an Air Force transport pass overhead. Soon another flew by, and then a third. I stopped, in awe of the aircraft, and the trails they were laying out behind them. Today, I know they were C-123 Providers, and they were probably spraying pesticide for mosquitos. It was probably not the best of places to be, but fortunately I don’t think I have come through that encounter any the worse for the experience, just the opposite.
That was my awakening to a world that would someday become my home. To look down on the land from the flight deck of a cargo aircraft and see it pass as we flew low over the ground to bring relief supplies to those in need, or to infiltrate behind the enemy lines to drop off Special Forces, or just fly to practice flying. We had an expression in those halcyon days of my early career. “If God had wanted man to fly he would have been born with green baggy skin” like the flight suits we wore.
It is now almost sixty years since I looked up. A lifetime has come and gone, and I will be forever grateful to those airmen who laid out the trails for me to follow. They helped shape a world where time and space shrank, where frontiers reached the heavens, and technology took man to the moon.
I can only hope that in some small way I marked a trail for others.