I remember California. I remember summers without shirts or shoes; I remember endless hours of fun, fun without electronic toys. My Dad built a barbeque; we spent more time riding our ‘stage coach’ than my Dad spent cooking. Our driveway was an aircraft carrier, our bikes were the aircraft. We kept the streets safe from all invaders. I remember getting angry when my muscles were too fatigued to launch, aircraft did not get tired. I remember trick or treating until my feet hurt and eating candy until my stomach hurt. We stopped just before we got home and ate all the unwrapped candy. Given the chance, we knew Mom would throw it away. I remember building forts in the back yard. I remember setting up the tent at the end of the school year and sleeping outdoors for the entire summer. I remember my first crush, I remember walking Peggy Pryor home from school, we were in the third grade. I remember running in the wheat field. I remember watching B-52s launch and I remember air shows. I remember going to the hospital to pick up my Mom and my brand new baby brother Richard. I wanted another brother and Maria wanted a sister, I yelled ‘boy, boy, boy’ all the way to the hospital, Maria yelled ‘girl, girl, girl’. I remember sitting in the car and watching my Mom carry a tiny bundle. I remember leaving my friends and moving to Canada. My best friends moved with me.
I remember Canada. I remember huge blueberries; I remember boy scouts and summer camp. I remember almost tackling my Mother when my parents came to summer camp for a visit; I missed them more than I knew. I remember riding my bike to the end of the runway, lying on my back near the end and watching F-102s land. I remember extreme cold and enough snow to last a lifetime. I remember the base plowed a large clearing for an ice skating rink. They never could get the water to freeze properly, but the snow they piled up made a great sledding hill. I remember walking back from the base store; half way back I was told about my new baby brother, Dan. I was upset, I wanted him to wait one more day; I wanted us to share a birthday. I remember leaving my friends and moving to Illinois. My best friends moved with me.
I remember Illinois. I remember scouts, fighting a forest fire and spelunking. I remember forgetting our tent poles and a lesson from Dad. We worked with the materials available and set up the tent. I remember a teacher who believed in me and helped me believe in myself. I remember sharing a room with my three brothers. I remember playing in the woods, sledding on steeps hills, my first NFL game and our first color TV. I remember looking through the windows at our empty house just before we left. I remember leaving my friends and moving to Thailand. My best friends moved with me.
I remember Thailand. I remember the heat, the traffic and bus rides. I remember beautiful beaches, the Gulf of Siam, water skiing and sailing. I remember scouts, camping on an island in the Gulf, snorkeling over remote coral reefs, and camping at the Bridge over the River Kwai. I remember the Australian Scouts and a trip to Malaysia. I remember hide and seek in dark, dark jungles. I remember the Student Science Society, field trips, and huge snakes (their head on one side and tail on the other side of a narrow road). I remember a culture unlike any I had ever seen. I remember an incredibly complex language. I remember leaving my friends and moving to Massachusetts. My best friends moved with me.
I remember Massachusetts. I remember Vince leaving for college, the first of five to demonstrate the independence instilled by our parents. My best friends began finding their own way in the world. My family was maturing. One year later, I followed my brother’s lead and left for college.
I remember meeting a woman and falling in love. I remember my embarrassment the first time we went out to dinner, it was Chinese. My fortune read ‘the marriage will be prosperous’. I remember a huge oak tree in Winchester, Massachusetts. I remember sitting by the reservoir, shaded by the oak and committing our lives to each other. I remember our wedding in the same city.
I remember Pilot Training. I remember my confidence on my first solo in the T-37. I remember my first solo in the sleek, supersonic T-38. I raised the gear handle, pulled the throttles out of afterburner and said ‘well, now you have to land it’. I still have the flying gloves I wore on the T-37 solo. I wore them on my first T-38 solo, first ride as an Aircraft Commander in the F-111, first A-10 solo, first F-16 solo and my first Captain flight in the Boeing 737.
I remember my years flying fighters. I remember excitement, elation, frustration, confusion, disappointment, triumph, and friendship. I remember thinking I was going to hit the ground and die. I remember engines coming apart, I remember an engine exploding and burning. I remember climbing out of my F-16 on July 2, 1990, taking a few steps away from the jet, turning back for a last look and thinking ‘I’m glad I did that, I’m even happier I lived through it’. I walked away from tactical aviation forever.
I remember 1975. I remember hiking 7.5 miles in Glacier National Park; at the time the distance seemed challenging. I began a love affair with the outdoors. I remember the Narrows of Zion, standing on top of Half Dome, straddling the Continental Divide in Glacier, and walking across the Grand Canyon. I remember a 16 mile solo hike in Yosemite. Alone most of the time I tried to imagine John Muir’s Yosemite. I remember all of my hikes, the uphill pull, the weight on my back, sunsets, sunrises, rain, snow, heat, lakes, mountains and glaciers. I remember deer, bison, wolves, elk, mountain goats, and fear when a grizzly walked out of the woods forty feet in front of me. I remember the first time I heard a wolf howl, I remember the Druid Peak Pack moving down a ridge. I remember sharing my passion with friends.
I remember my family pulling together when my youngest brother almost died.
I remember the people who are and were important to me, teachers, mentors, family and friends. I remember my parents; I remember how they raised us and continue to guide us. They prepared us for the world, for that I will always be grateful.