Excerpt Book Two
Dedicated to soldiers who die young:
“For the wife I will never see
For my children who will never be
I trust my legacy to Thee.”
While you (generals) commanded at headquarters, we possessed the Air Force soul and dwelt in its home, on the line, where the mission is accomplished, the essence revealed, and where you may get to embrace a brother crew in the dark skies over the Nile.
The bell to commence the class was still a few minutes away, but the (Russian second grade) students slowly showed awareness that some aura had descended on the room, almost like they were, somehow, in a church.
After several minutes of haughty posturing and faux disinterest I eye-locked with one of the Russians and could not let go, nor could he.
The next time I was in the squadron I stepped into the ops officer’s office and brought this to his attention. “I can’t find the sentence about me being the only ART to fly in command with ASEV in my OER,” I said.
He frowned and nodded his head to imply he had had to make a difficult decision and said, “I know, Jay, it was a tough call, but I had to remove that sentence. It would have made all the other ARTS look bad.”
The supportive civilians were greatly outnumbered, initially, by the protest army, but soon were gaining numbers and claiming one side of the street from the anti-war crowd. Although they didn’t know it at the time, and I have been loath to admit it since, I watched their efforts with tears in my eyes from inside the gate. The simple, square, middle-class workers and families were sticking up for us when, seemingly, all of officialdom had sided against us. This was not the last time local civilians would help rescue the military from itself, nor the last time I would have tears in my eyes watching their efforts.
We got off the bus, empty guns in hand, and entered the O’Club for Sunday buffet brunch.
It didn’t occur to me what was about to happen until I approached an empty table in the middle of the room. I got to my chair, paused, and laid the revolver on the white tablecloth next to my plate and silverware, as did my crewmates.
A ripple of shocked silence flowed away from our table in all directions. I didn’t look up. I didn’t need to. I knew every eye of the hundred or so diners, many with their families, was on us. This was their notification that war had come to Ramstein and things would be different.
Suddenly we were not in control of the plane. I felt as if a giant invisible hand had scooped us up and begun to raise us into the sky, a sensation similar to a rotating Ferris wheel after you pass the bottom of the circular arc and begin to rise rapidly.
The rear end of the tanker hovered before us in the utter blackness of the developing typhoon as some sort of alien space ship, more glowing chimera than airplane. In some ways it appeared to be a large manta ray with two radiant eyes that were the under-wing illumination lights of the tanker.
The (retired) colonel’s eyes narrowed and a sneer came across his face. “Are you a reservist, captain?” he asked.
“Yes, Sir, I am.” I said.
“I could tell,” he said, “because it is obvious your patriotism and dedication to this country are much less than the active duty.”
Total silence ensued.
As I have said previously, I only lost my temper a handful of times in 33 years in the Air Force and, prior to this moment, only once. This would be the second.”