Monday is Memorial Day in America. It's a time for family gatherings and backyard cookouts. A time to visit a military cemetery and perhaps leave a token of thanks and gratitude to a fallen soldier, sailor or airman. Joe and I will travel to St. Marys where on Monday a wreath will be placed on the St. Marys river.
I grew up the daughter of a US Army aviator. My dad was a member of the Army Air Corp, a veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam War. I cut my teeth while watching young soldiers, paratroopers in training, jump from the mammoth jump towers at Fort Benning. I adored military parades and the music of John Philip Sousa. I also loved planes, helicopters, anything that flew. And my father was a pilot. I mean PILOT! When he smiled, I swear little stars flashed from his snowy white smile. He was my personal hero.
When I was nine years old my father took me flying over farmer's fields. Dad was attending flight school at Fort Dix, NJ at the time. Illegal as hell, he had my mother bring my older sister and me to a grassy field where he landed an Army L-19 Birddog. Picture a light weight, army- brown, highwing, two-seater aircraft, it's wings painted with the star and stripes.
It was a beautiful day. As the three of us stood in the tall grass of the field, Mom pointed toward the sky. We watched as a tiny plane grew larger, then landed. My hair whipped against my face from the rush of the propeller, then with all the trust in the world for our handsome young father, my sister and I climbed aboard.
I had flown once before on a long trip across the breadth of America and up to the Aleutian Islands and then across the endless Pacific to the island of Japan. It was 1952, the airliner was not a jet, but a propeller driven plane! But today was different. It was filled with spontaneous spirit and that touch of danger that my dad embodied.
As Dad motioned to us, and with Mom's help, we jumped into the single seat behind our dad, sharing the harness intended for a backseat observer. Within minutes, Dad opened the throttle and we spun around to take off. The plane felt as light as a balloon under us. With each bounce across the grass it seemed to want to leap into the air!
I think Dad took that little plane through every maneuver he'd learned and knowing my dad, probably more. We dove and climbed and rolled and did gigantic loops in the air that made our stomachs float into our chests and I heard myself yelling a squeeky little girl Whoaaaaaaaa! in unison with my sister. We looked at each other in wide grinned joy and we both knew we were the luckiest girls in the whole wide world.
Have a good Memorial Day folks. Here's to my dad and all the other veterans who have passed on. Thanks. Thanks an awful lot. Love, Ronnie