I was asked to write about my most memorial moments from my Air Force career. There are quite a few “memorial moments” but these, I think, stand out the most in my mind.
When I entered “Boot Camp” I was in an environment that is hard to describe. Compared to the politically correct Training Camps of today, Boot Camp in 1976 was tough. The Drill Instructors were allowed to curse or even strike an airman. That was never publicized, but it was a fact. The Drill Instructors knew that they were taking raw – sometimes soft – recruits and were required to harden us up. The thing I remember most about Boot Camp was the camaraderie of the men in my unit. We worked together in everything we did, whether cleaning the barracks, marching, running the obstacle courses, or firing our rifles. I learned the value of unity in Boot Camp, and I learned to overlook small differences in people, such as skin color, traditions, or speech patterns. People are created by God “of one blood” (Acts 17:26). It’s what’s in the heart that matters most.
When I was assigned to the Republic of Korea, Kunsan, I learned that hate can be taught. The older Koreans would often invite American soldiers home to eat supper with their families. These people had experienced the violence and mayhem of the Korean War and appreciated our presence in their country. Contrasted to this the local University students were taught to hate Americans, as many of the failed Communists found places of refuge in the Universities and Colleges. I was awakened one night when a group of students decided to try and overthrow our base. Armed with Molotov Cocktails and clubs they charged the locked gates. Our military police easily held them off, and the lit gasoline caused little damage to the wire fence and asphalt No one was hurt, and this was never reported on any of the mainline American news channels. When Airmen went downtown we afterward went in groups of three or four, and all carried weapons “just in case”. I never had to hurt anyone, and was always treated well by shop keepers and the older Koreans. I stayed away from the brainwashed students.
The day that I was due to retire from the Air Force the Wing Commander and Chief Officers took a B-52 bomber up for in flight maneuvers. As we were loading our moving van I heard a terrible thump, and a large pillar of smoke billowed up from the flight line. As the aircrew were making a tight turn above the air field, the left wing of the bomber touched a high tension power line. The plane cartwheeled, and all aboard were killed. The saddest part of the story was that the Wing Commander was retiring from active duty that very day, and his wife, children, and grandchildren were waiting on the runway for him to land. Instead, they saw him die along with his crew. I learned that day that life is very fleeting, and we can leave this earth without a moment’s notice.
The thing I remember most as I think back over my military career is that people really aren’t that different: everyone wants and needs love. I learned that love and unity are of paramount importance – from the family to the unit to the Church. I’ve served my country and my Lord in Korea, Germany, Egypt, England, and in the United States. At the end of the day I and other airmen stood at attention and, with tears in our eyes, held a salute as retreat was played and the flag was lowered. The United States is the greatest nation in the world, but it is slowly losing its greatness as we slowly drift farther and farther away from God. Lord, help us repent and return to that which made us strong – one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.