28 September 2005

Hero?

I'm proud of my service to my country.

Being eligible for the draft, and then drafted at the age of 19,
at the time of a growing conflict in Viet Nam,
put a focus on my life that young people don't experience today.

But let me make an uncomfortable confession:
I tried to avoid Viet Nam!

A week into Basic Training, I was summoned to the Orderly Room by the Company Commander.
I was a Private........lower than a snake's belly.......
Being called by, and then standing in front of that 2nd Lieutenant was a scary experience!
He pushed a paper across his desk to me, and said, "sign at the bottom".
I signed, THEN asked, "what is this?"
"Your GT (overall aptitude) scores are high enough, so you're goin' to O.C.S.!

Oh, really!

Not, "would you like to go to O.C.S.?",
just......."sign here".

I knew I could refuse the orders later if I wanted, so I didn't complain to this man that could make life REALLY miserable for a lowly Private in the U.S. Army!

After two months in Basic Training, and two months in South Carolina learning how to be a good Infantryman, I cooled my jets for 8 months waiting for orders dispatching me to O.C.S..

I actually started Officer's school in May of '67.
Sometime during O.C.S., the U.S. and the North Vietnamese started actually talking to one another about ending the conflict.

I'm not a gung-ho warrior at heart, so the idea of having to waste my combat training at an assignment in say.........Hawaii, instead of going to Viet Nam, didn't trouble me too much!

But it took months for those involved in the talks to agree on the size and shape of the negotiating table!

Meanwhile, mid-way through O.C.S. the message went out......
"those interested in going to Flight School
should meet in the classroom at ****hours."

I was interested.
Again, I signed the forms........partly for the training, but partly in hopes that the peace negotiations would bear fruit before I had to get on the plane for that long flight across the Pacific.

While I was in Flight School, the negotiators agreed on the number and size of the flags that would be placed on the table!

I graduated Flight School, and had delayed as long as I could.

On 1 November, 1968 I got on the plane and went to do my duty as an Army Gunship pilot in Viet Nam.

You can find stories of some of my Viet Nam experiences
in the Archives of this Blog.
My tour was........."interesting".

When I meet people and they find out I flew helicopters in Viet Nam,
their attitude toward me changes. Some have referred to me and my peers as "heroes".

Personally, I'm more than a little uncomfortable with that.

It all boils down to the word "Hero", and how you define it.

Let me tell you how I define "Hero".
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


At the Battle of Gettysburg,
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's troops had faced the worst of the fighting for over two days.

They were attrited, exhausted, and out of ammunition on "Little Round Top" when the Confederate Troops started their attack.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's response?
He commanded his men:
"FIX BAYONETS.........CHARGE!"
And they did!

Heroes!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


World War II bomber crews in Europe had to complete 25 missions to be able to rotate back home.

The average lifespan of one of these crews was 8 missions!
These crews knew their chances of survival and rotation back home was virtually ZERO,
yet, by the thousands, they boarded their aircraft and took off to do their duty.

Heroes!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


In Somalia, Para-Rescue troops SFC Randy Shugart and MSG Gary Gordon were aboard a helicopter circling the "Blackhawk Down" in the intersection at Mogadishu.
Knowing their mission would probably result in their deaths,
they nevertheless requested to be inserted at the site.
Their request was refused by the Commander.
Did they relax and say, "Oh well, we tried?"
Nope.
They made their request again......this time more emphatically!
And they were inserted,
And they died, protecting others.

Heroes!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


New York, September 11, 2001.
Firefighters wearing 100 pounds of protective equipment face a 30 minute uphill trek "against the flow" of traffic desperately trying to escape the building, knowing they are about to face something never experienced in history, and more dangerous than anything they could ever imagine.
Yet they climbed the stairs, providing assistance where they could to get others to safety.

Heroes!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


When I think of these "Heroes", I am reduced to tears and humbled.
Yes, I'm proud of my service.
But much of my story can be summed up: "right place, right time."
Viet Nam helped me learn much about my own character.

But in comparison to these "Heroes",
my sacrifice for my country seems a pretty small thing, indeed.

How do you define "Hero"?

25 September 2005

Run Away, Run Away!

I'm puzzled.

We've all seen the video of the evacuation of Galveston/Houston before Rita's arrival...
The slowly-moving parking lot...

It brought to mind memories of a trip we took some years ago to a family reunion in St. Petersburg, Florida.

We were traveling Southbound on Interstate 75, just South of the Florida State line. I checked the speedometer and it read 70, which I believe was 5 over the speed limit there.

And then a quick check of the rear-view mirror showed a big backwards "M" on the right side, a big reverse "K" on the left side, and a big backwards "CA" in the center!
"KCAM"

Pretty frightening!

Traffic was VERY heavy... when I tried to maintain the safe, "two second" rule... two seconds distance behind the car in front of us, someone would pass me and cut the spacing to one second or less.

A quick conversation with Sara Jean confirmed that she was as uncomfortable with the situation as was I.
It was just a matter of time until there was an accident, and then, if we were lucky enough to not be involved ourselves, we'd be prisoners on the Interstate... either motionless, or moving at 2 m.p.h. toward the next exit 10 miles away!

A quick check of our map indicated that Florida Highway 19 paralleled our course. It was just two lanes, and went through lots of little towns, but it had to be preferable to this I-75 lunacy!
We took the next exit and went West 2 miles to Hwy. 19.

NO TRAFFIC! The road was excellent, and we could actually take our eyes off the road and traffic and enjoy the scenery!

So here's my obvious question: Why didn't folks fleeing Galveston take the first farm road off the Interstate highway and get away from that congested situation on the Interstate? I've lived in Texas. I know what their farm roads are like. If you've never been there, Texas has frontage roads that are nicer than some Interstates I've driven on in Michigan, or Arkansas!

Run out of gas on one of these roads, and help is just a knock on a "neighbors" door away. Texans are friendly folk!

Encounter an accident? Drive around it!

I bet the traffic they encountered would have been less stressful than on the bigger highway too!

22 September 2005

Flying Home

The phone rings.

Dispatch tells us where to go, and the patient's complaint.

Sometimes, the flight is to my home town,
population.......less than 10,000.

I've been fortunate that I've never had to transport a close friend or family member, but I HAVE carried close acquaintances.

In flight, headed to my home hospital, I wonder what we'll encounter when we get there.


Some years ago, we were dispatched to my home hospital
to pick up a 7 year old boy that had "fallen down a flight of stairs".

Alarm Bells!

I shut the aircraft down and proceeded to the E.R. to check out the situation.

Outside the E.R. door were two clutches of people,
each containing 5-or-so folks.

One of the groups was Black,
the other White.

The tension was thick enough to slow your walking speed.
These folks weren't looking at one another.

Here's the story:
The White Mother of our patient was previously married to a Black man.
Our patient is the result of that marriage.

Now married to a White man, Grandparents and other members of the respective families constitute the two groups in the hallway outside the E.R..

A White man approaches me, obviously under a great deal of stress,
puts his index finger within a few inches of my nose
and says emphatically,
"That's my stepson you're flying. He's a REALLY special kid!
You take damn good care of him!"

Strange.......
Inappropriate.

My crew wheels the kid out........
he's that beautiful "coffee and cream" color of many mixed race kids,
with an innocent, almost pretty, face.

He's unconscious, bruised, with a terrible closed-head injury.

I followed up:
He lived a week.

StepDad was arrested an hour after accosting me.
Charged with murder after our patient's death,
tried,
convicted,
sentenced to 40 years in the Pen.

The Alarm Bells were justified.........
My gut said "GUILTY" when I suppressed the urge
to break off his finger and hand it to him!

20 September 2005

Times Beach, Missouri, Volume II

Do you remember the story of Times Beach?

In a nutshell, the town was built on Old Route 66,on the bank of the Meramec River.

The Meramec flooded frequently.

I'm unsure of the exact date, but sometime in the late 70's the river overflowed it's banks and the residents were forced to evacuate their homes.


Residents were generally poor, and most didn't have flood insurance,
so there was a great clamor for the Federal Government to help people rebuild their homes and lives.

And the U.S. Government responded and spent the $$$$$.

Now, the residents of Times Beach were logical people, right?
They got the help rebuilding their homes.
But they STILL lived alongside a river that flooded frequently.
So to make sure they were never in that predicament again,
they took EVERY action possible to avoid a recurrence,
to include buying flood insurance, right?

Wrong, Bunky!

In 1982, the river rose again, and once again forced people out of their homes.
And again, there was a great cry for Federal help.

My thought was, how can these people expect the U.S. taxpayer to pull their stones outta the fire this second time?
But this time, there was a twist.........

In the early 70's, residents had hired a waste oil hauler to spray oil
on their roads to control dust.
This DIRTBAG had taken a contract to dispose of waste oil that contained high levels of Dioxin.

And where did he dispose of the Dioxin-tainted oil?
Oh, Bunky, you are quick!

Times Beach.

Now, Times Beach residents didn't need to say,
"we were flooded out again, help us".
Instead the clamor was: "we have poisons all around our homes.......help us!"

And the U.S. taxpayer responded again, buying out homes of people that didn't have the sense to buy flood insurance,
although they lived alongside the oft-flooding Meramec!

You see where I'm headed with this, right?
Flooding.......toxic waste..........flooding again.

Katrina delivered a powerful punch to New Orleans,
and now Rita may be on the way.

And what about next hurricane season, and the next.............and the next?

Is New Orleans STILL under sea level?
Yes, Bunky, I believe it is!

If we spend BILLIONS and BILLIONS and BILLIONS rebuilding and detoxing
New Orleans over the next years,
will New Orleans be under water again in the future?

Am I truly on a rant here?
Right on both counts, Bunk!

There WILL be common-sense talk about using the BILLIONS to build the city somewhere else, and allow the Mississippi to reclaim New Orleans.

Folks that take this stance will be called racists,
and worse.

I have NO DOUBT we will spend the BILLIONS this time.

But it will happen again,
just like Times Beach.

And then..........better decision making may prevail.

IN$ANE!

19 September 2005

Pirate Pitchpull!

In honor of "National Talk Like a Pirate Day",
I bring your attention to

  • This


  • When you click on my "Pirate Pitchpull" blogroll,
    you find they have done it with ALL the links!

    Questions:

    Who?
    Why?
    How much work did that take?

    "Unusual Attitude", Me beauties!
    Shiver Me Timbers!

    18 September 2005

    A Problem With Gas

    Over at Aviatrix's blog,
  • Cockpit Conversation
  • she asked why they didn't publish "maximum endurance" figures on cars the way they do for flying machines.

    With gasoline being sold at $3 per gallon and higher, it's a valid question.

    I posted a comment in answer to her question which I will share with you, along with some further thoughts on transportation costs today.

    I used to be a "member" at National Public Radio and Public TV.
    I quit contributing to NPR when they became a broadcast arm of one of our political parties, but I freeload by continuing to listen to some of my favorite programs.
    As an auto enthusiast, I enjoy "Click and Clack, The Tappet Brothers".

    Some time back the boys discussed the point at which a car will get the best gas mileage. This happens when the engine is turning at the slowest RPM in it's top road gear..........4th gear in a 4 speed transmission. At this point you are using the least fuel to cover the most distance. Go faster, and you incur higher wind resistance, (drag), and mileage will decrease.

    This speed is easy to discover in a car with an automatic transmission......accelerate slowly and watch the tachometer (or just listen) for the transmission to make that last shift, and note the speed.

    With a manual transmission you need to consider the slowest speed your car will go without bogging the engine down.

    Tire pressures are also an important factor. Higher pressures mean lower rolling resistance and better mileage, but also mean a sacrifice in ride quality.......the car will ride rougher.

    I've been experimenting with our car on the way to work. My trip is 35 miles, with a small town about midway where I have to make 3 stops at stop signs.

    I found that our 4300 pound car with automatic transmission shifts into top (4th) gear at 40 miles per hour when I am accelerating gently.
    I also found that if I tried to drive at that speed, when I encountered a hill along the way, the tranny would downshift to third to climb the hill, therefore less miles per gallon.

    Adding 5 m.p.h. to the speed.........45......... precluded this from happening.
    I reset the onboard computer as I drove away from home.
    When I got to work, the computer indicated 32.8 miles per gallon!
    Not bad for a 4300 pound car with a 253 horsepower, 3.5 liter V-6!

    Of course, driving at 45 m.p.h. needs to be factored into my plans for making it to work on time, but at $3.00 per gallon, I have the incentive to take the extra time!

    An electric car would be an attractive option. I could recharge at home, then plug in at work and recharge for the drive home.
    There are cars that can range out as far as 35-40 miles at 50 miles per hour, so that wouldn't be a problem.
    But the kits for these automobiles run about $7,000, and for that money I can buy a lot of gas, even at $3 per gallon!

    I've also been looking at Diesels. They get better mileage than a comparable gasoline auto, and the old complaints about them.....noise, vibration, and smell........are less and less a factor with the newer vehicles.
    But I found an interesting thing: you can run them on vegetable oil!
    Many penny pinchers are now going to restaurants and offering them a win/win situation: Let me have your old deep frying oil, and instead of having to pay to have it hauled off, I'll do it for free!

    But as usual, there is a catch here too:
    Diesel engines won't start on the vegetable oil.
    The solution is to have two fuel systems on your vehicle.
    Start the engine on Diesel, then switch to the vegetable oil system.
    BUT, you must remember to switch back to the Diesel system before shutting the engine down in order to be able to start the engine the next time!

    Vegetable oil conversions can be purchased for less than $1,000, if you decide you'd like to cut back on costs this way.

    Another viable alternative is Natural gas/Propane.
    Any gasoline fueled car can be converted to burn Natural gas or Propane. Adjustments need to be made to the fuel injection and engine control computer, and the fuel storage system needs to be adapted to your individual vehicle.
    Costs will vary depending on how much your vehicle needs to be modified, but the cost of using Natural gas/Propane instead of gasoline at $3 per would make the changeover worthwhile in a very short time!

    Gas prices are headed back down as I write this, thank goodness!
    But fuel costs are now on everyone's mind, and I suspect we'll see a change in attitude when people go to buy a new car/truck in the future.

    As for me, until I'm ready to buy my next new car, I'll be driving to work at 45 miles per hour!

    13 September 2005

    Creatures of Habit

    One of my paramedics and I were having a discussion the other day. He is working toward becoming an RN, and we were discussing a class he was taking on aging and senility.

    He discussed the fact that more and more, we are learning that
    "use it or lose it" is really true.....
    People that do active things with their minds like reading, solving puzzles, going to museums, conversing with interesting acquaintances..........
    maintain their mental acuity longer than "couch potatoes".
    (Eat your heart out, Dan Quayle!)

    We then got into a discussion about what creatures of habit we are, and how slight changes in our routines may help us to stay mentally sharp longer.

    One of the suggestions he studied was that changing simple things, like the route you take to drive to work or home, would establish new nerve pathways and would stimulate your brain in ways that would help it stay healthy.
    Any area of your life that requires you to do routine things........
    tie your shoes, make coffee, write notes, etc...........
    if you make minor changes in the way you pursue the task, will help to stimulate your brain and help keep it healthy longer.
    (Can you write with your weak hand?)

    This evening I put our discussion into action:
    I noticed that when I take a shower, I do EXACTLY the same things each time! I am right-handed, so this evening I decided I would use my left hand to bathe myself, with the exception, of course, of things that are impossible to do with my left hand, like washing my left arm!

    Try it yourself!
    What an alien feeling, trying to use my left hand to make the wash cloth go into tiny areas of my right ear, or between my toes!

    And the immediate relaxation when I returned to the comfort zone, using my right hand to wash my left arm!
    Seems silly, doesn't it?
    Well, you'll be surprised when you have a go at it!

    But I'm surprised and enlightened by this experiment, and I'm gonna try to put little changes into my life everywhere I can!

    So, readers..........all THREE of you!.........I challenge you:
    Make little changes in your life too, and when you are surprised, pleased, or confused by something, share it with the rest of us!

    P.S.
    When I published my last three posts, I was thrilled to immediately get a comment!
    When I read the comments though, they said something like,
    "Your blog rocks! If others share their ideas like this, the world will certainly be a better place!"

    Neat.
    But then the next line..........
    "come check out my blog, www.comevacationinHaiti.com"

    Computer generated Spam!
    So if you try to comment, you'll notice I have installed a verification process to try to eliminate spammers.
    I'm sorry to make it more difficult, but I don't want my site taken over by mindless comments.

    11 September 2005

    Where is the Rewind Button?

    In an earlier post, titled "When Chihuahua's Attack!" I wrote:

    Little Bubba has this same spirit. He thinks he is the meanest Mutha around, and a great hunter to boot! Rabbits easily outdistance him. Squirrels enjoy it when he gives chase, and then they turn and taunt him from halfway up the tree! When he is on one of these "quests" he is a blockhead with selective hearing... he may as well be deaf! Forget thinking you have any control over him! Of course, I've grown quite fond of having "blockhead" around... can't imagine coming home and not having him meet us ecstatically!


    Friday was a beautiful day... 85 degrees, cloudless. I was puttering around, tending to honey-do's. I had replaced the thermostat on my work car... was satisfied I had the problem licked, and was in the process of putting my tools away.

    Little Bubba was supervising, in addition to insuring the ferocious squirrels didn't try to come too close to me while I was working.
    He was doing a great job!

    One last squirrel tried to approach, and Lil' Bubba went after him. The squirrel went up, then twice around the Cottonwood, then hit the ground about 5 feet in front of Lil' Bubba. They both made a headlong run at top speed toward the road, just as the first car in 20 minutes headed Eastbound on our street. The squirrel escaped in front of the car, and I watched in hope that the car was going fast enough to clear the road before Little Bubba crossed. But he was too fast, and ran full speed into the front wheel.
    I saw him thrown 3 feet in the air like a rag doll, then lie motionless, perfectly parallel to the road, on the gravel alongside our yard. He quivered a little, but there was "nobody home" in his eyes.
    Mercifully, neck completely broken... He was gone.

    A three year old Red Dachshund, in perfect health... slender...
    a beautiful specimen.

    Gone.

    I'm devastated.

    No sleep the first night, and for two days now, I've been lookin' for life's "rewind" button, to go back to 5 minutes before the incident and take Little Bubba in my arms.

    At safety briefings while I was in the Army, they frequently showed us a chart which had the stressors of life listed. Each of the stressors had a numerical value, and Commanders and safety officers were supposed to keep an eye on their Aviators for cumulative stress in their lives. At the top of the chart was "Loss of Spouse or Child", and let's say that value was 10.
    Divorce was up there too, with a value of 9 or so.
    Loss of employment was high, as was serious illness and financial complications.

    Managers were to use the chart as a guide... if total stresses exceeded a certain value, and it would have been in the neighborhood of 9-10, an Aviator could be grounded until his personal situation was more under control.

    Loss of a beloved pet should also be high on that list. It is Sunday night as I type here, and I am starting my work shift. I'm still easily reduced to a blubbering, incoherent blob when I think about no "Little Bubba" to greet me when I get home in the morning! If I had been scheduled to work on Friday or Saturday night, I would have called in "sick".

    I think I am now at the point where being at work will be therapeutic... being away from home with a task to pursue will help me to get back to a routine.

    But at home... I hear sounds like his bark, I see his little head at the door, begging to come in after he has been out to "take care of business"... when I sit down I expect him to assume his normal position on my lap.

    Sara Jean has not been able to force herself to clean his nose prints off our front door.

    How does anyone survive the loss of a child, or a wife/husband of 60 years?

    Little Bubba, (Frankie) was a bigger part of our life than we could have realized...

    It's gonna take a while to recover, folks.

    08 September 2005

    Idiot Chimp Hitler Bush!

    It has been fascinating to watch/hear/read the New York Times, CNN, NPR, and the rest of the "Major Media Sources" trying their hardest to pin the brunt of the Hurricane Katrina failures on the President!
    (He is not without fault, but his mistakes have been relatively minor.)
    And I have an insiders knowledge of how all this vomit is gonna eventually blow back in their faces!
    Let me explain.

    You may remember in an earlier post, my story of first being a dogcatcher and ending up being the Assistant Coordinator of the County Health Dept. after the County Executive decided he wanted to save me from becoming an alcoholic?

    Well there is more to that story:
    Part of the reason he wanted me aboard was that in 1975 a mutual friend, working as a Deputy Sheriff, had bought two surplus Bell 47 helicopters for the County from the U.S. Government. By bringing me aboard as a County employee he could Deputize me, and I could also fly for the Sheriff's Department.

    But going through the process of buying the helicopters, ($1.00 each at the time.....how many would you like?), he found that his Civil Defense Director was failing in his job.

    My friend the County Executive was apparently impressed with my performance as the Chief Dogcatcher, and came one day with another offer:

    "I need someone to take over the job of Director of Civil Defense. The present Director was supposed to have written the County's Emergency Operations Plan a year ago, and he hasn't even gotten started on it."

    The Director of what is now called "Emergency Management" in the County was an older man, and writing the "E.O.P.", an all-encompassing document, was simply more than he wanted to tackle!

    I felt an obligation to show my thanks for my Co. Exec. friend, so I took the job and started writing the emergency plan immediately.

    And boy, is it inclusive!
    Our county was bordered by two MAJOR rivers, so interestingly, flooding was our most important threat to cover, but there were other considerations..........tornados, major fires, and of course, at the time, the nuclear threat from the U.S.S.R..

    To make a long story short, from that experience I knew where the ball had been dropped when I saw how many folks remained behind in New Orleans, and the fact that they were stuck there, starving and thirsty after the wind and rain had stopped and the water started to rise.

    Have you seen the pictures of the Municipal and School buses underwater in New Orleans?
    Have you heard the excuse the Mayor is giving as to why he didn't use them to get his population to safety?
    (He didn't want them traveling in such Spartan accomodations.........he had asked Greyhound to send buses to move his constituents!)

    This is criminal!
    And please watch as this unfolds.........watch to see who continues to dig themselves a hole, even though they have reached bottom.
    Senator Landrieu continues to dig..........she is in HUGE political trouble, as is the Mayor and the Governor, (and I'm ashamed to have to call Ms. Blanco that!)

    As another buddy would say........."watch out for the assplosion"!
    It's gonna be interesting!

    02 September 2005

    Fable

    I am a Christian, but not from the "Taliban" wing of the Church.

    But a fable told by Christians is timely today, I think:

    A terrible storm is coming.
    Emergency personnel go out in Loudspeaker trucks to warn residents to evacuate.
    Tyrone Jacobus says, "The Lord will take care of me."

    The rain comes down in bucketloads, and a 4-wheel drive stops at Tyrone's door to offer escape.
    Tyrone says, "The Lord will protect me."

    Floods overtake Tyrone's house and in desperation he climbs to the roof. A helicopter hovers over his head, but Tyrone refuses help, saying, "The Lord will provide for me."

    The water continues to rise, and Tyrone is swept away and drowns.
    At the gates of heaven, Tyrone asks the gatekeeper, "Why didn't the Lord save me?"

    The gatekeeper replies......."we sent warning trucks, a 4X4 vehicle, and a helicopter to save you. What more could the Lord do?"

    The day Katrina hit New Orleans, Fox News' Shepherd Smith asked a guy drinking at a bar in downtown New Orleans why he was still in town.
    The guy replied, "None of your F*****G business!"

    I'd love to ask this Tyrone.........is it our business now?

    Three For Three

    December, 1968
    Pleiku, Viet Nam

    I was happily settled into a semblance of a routine life with the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Enari, Viet Nam. Division managers began looking at the way aviators had been added to the Division and noticed that almost 20 percent of the Division's Aviator strength had been added in November of '68. This meant there would be an unacceptable loss of expertise in October of '69. The only way to resolve the problem was to "infuse" some aviators to other Divisions and bring in new replacements.

    I got picked to move.
    I received orders to go to the "Americal Division" at Chu Lai.

    Although I hate to move, my new assignment was a blessing. My new housing overlooked the South China Sea. The unit had a deficiency of gunship pilots and welcomed me with open arms.

    After going through the normal checkouts to insure I was qualified and current, I started flying missions.

    One morning I was scheduled to fly with "Granddaddy" Jim Elrod.
    Granddaddy was a CW4, the highest ranking Warrant Officer in the Army at the time. He was 52, our unit's oldest aviator, and had a daughter older than me.

    Granddaddy liked me. When we met in operations to be briefed for the mission, Granddaddy asked if I would like to fly "right seat".........the command seat in the UH-1C gunship.......and my first chance to shoot rockets!
    I jumped at the chance!

    Our mission was a routine reconnaissance........OH-6 "little bird" flyin' REAL low........checking things out, with Granddaddy and I following close behind, just a little higher in altitude, to provide the little bird some protection.

    We'd been searching an area with big rocks.........similar to what we used to see in Cowboy movies.......for about 15 minutes when the little bird called out........"RECEIVING FIRE!"

    I pointed the nose of the Huey toward him, lined up my "infinity" rocket sight at the area he was fleeing, and pushed the rocket firing button twice.

    WHOOSH, WHOOSH......two rockets with 10 pound high-explosive warheads were on their way to a rocky outcropping.

    Then the world exploded. I had no sense of a big bang, but I felt a rush and had an instant of pain in my face. I was confused.
    For just a moment, I was not in control of the aircraft.

    I turned to Granddaddy and keyed the intercom...........said, "What the Hell was that?" But the intercom made no sound.

    I tried again........"Can you hear me?" He shook his head........"NO."

    Regaining my senses, I looked back to control the aircraft and saw that my infinity sight reticle was gone. Beyond that, there was a 30 calibre hole in my windshield! Granddaddy reached over and grabbed my helmet cord and held it up........shot in half!

    The round had come through the windshield, through my rocket sight, then missed my face by six inches when it cut my helmet cord in two. Plexiglass from the windshield and glass from the rocket sight had blasted my face and eyes. My face was covered with tiny pinpricks of blood, and my eyes began to sting and tear.

    We aborted the mission and called in another gun team.

    Back at base, the Flight Surgeon spent 45 minutes picking slivers of glass and plexiglass out of my eyes and face.
    In two days I was good as new.

    Two months later, at a battalion awards ceremony, I received the Purple Heart.
    When I see guys without arms and legs wearing the same award I received, I wonder if I should have gotten it.

    But imagine my mental attitude.........
    Crashed in October and destroyed the aircraft when the governor failed.
    In November the "lift link" failed......a potentially fatal mechanical condition we found after almost deciding the aircraft was flyable.

    And now this incident in January.
    Three incidents that threatened my life........

    There were 8 months left in my Viet Nam tour. I really wondered what was in store for me just around the corner!

    01 September 2005

    Kids Love My Balls

    Oh my! Sorry about the title, but you ARE interested, aren't you?

    The Fair is in town.
    10 days of carnival, horse racing, car racing, cattle showing, and judges trying to figure out if Aunt Violette's persimmon pudding is the best of the batch!

    Our little town of 7000 gets invaded by the mob with all the "Dead Presidents" to spread around. It's a wonderful time!

    A couple weeks ago I received a call from the public relations director of a company that owns 6 radio stations in the midwest. "Can we hire you to come to the Fair and drop Ping-Pong balls?"

    It's a job I've never done, but how much skill can be involved here?
    Fly over an open field while adults hold hordes of kids back..........dump out 200-or-so ping-pong balls at the proper altitude and location, right?

    And that's pretty much it. The radio people had bought the balls in four colors......white, orange, pink, and lime green. Then they had added their own symbols with a magic marker. Kids were to wait until we flew over, and my new passenger/assistant, the lovely Kristin, dumped the balls. When given the okay, they could scramble to pick up the balls to redeem for prizes available at stalls corresponding to color/symbol at the opposite side of the field.

    They divided the kids up into age groups: 4-7, 8-10, and 11-12. Prizes were pretty much what kids would be interested in.........toys for the really young ones, and more substantial stuff for the older kids. Not suprisingly, this radio group gave away some really nice radios to the older kids!

    We turned and watched the scramble after we had made the drop. On my first pass, our altitude was too low and the balls ended up in a pretty tight area....the 4-7 year olds were on top of one another searching for the treasure!

    The next two drops were better.......from 50 or so feet higher, and with the help of a 5 knot wind, the load got spread out over an area large enough that the kids weren't scrapping for the same ball.

    Les Nessman and WKRP would have been proud!

    All in all, a fun job, and a great promotion for the radio stations!

    Helicopter flying.........something different every day!