My friend, Jeffrey Fozard, sent this to me via email (originally by Paul Cotter) which I thought deserves a place on my website.
Penned by J.C. Pennington
As we get older and we experience the loss of old friends, we begin to realize that maybe we ten-foot tall, bulletproof Army aviators (and crew) won’t live forever. We aren’t so bulletproof anymore. We ponder… if I we’re gone tomorrow, “Did I say what I wanted to my Brothers?” The answer is “No!” Hence, the following random thoughts:
When people ask me if I miss flying, I always say something like, “Yes, I miss the flying because when you are flying, you are totally focused on the task at hand. It’s like nothing else you will ever do (almost). ” But then I always say, “However, I miss the unit and the guys even more than I miss the flying.”
Why, you might ask? They were a bunch of aggressive, wiseass, cocky, insulting, sarcastic bastards in smelly flight suits! They drank too much, they chased women, they flew when they shouldn’t, they laughed too loud and thought they owned the sky, the bar, and generally thought they could do everything better than the next guy. Nothing was funnier than trying to screw with a buddy and see how pissed off they would get. They flew helicopters that leaked, that bled RPM, that broke, that couldn’t hover, that burned fuel too fast, that never had all the radios and instruments working, and with systems that were archaic next to today’s new generation aircraft.
But a little closer look might show that every guy in the room was sneaky smart and damned competent and brutally handsome in his own way! They hated to lose or fail to accomplish the mission and seldom did. They were the laziest guys on the planet until challenged and then they would do anything to win.
I miss the call signs, nicknames and the stories behind them.
I miss getting lit up in an O’ or NCO’ Club full of my buddies and watching the incredible, unbelievable things that were happening. I miss the crew chiefs waiting as you got to your ship for a Zero-Dark:30 preflight. I miss pulling an armful of pitch, nosing it over and climbing into a new dawn. I miss going straight up and straight down. I miss the tension of wondering what today’s 12 hours of combat flying would bring. I miss the craps table in the corner of the O-Club and letting it ALL ride because money was meaningless. I miss listening to BS stories while drinking and laughing until my eyes watered. I miss three man lifts. I miss naps on the platoon hootch porch with a room full of aviators working up new tricks to torment the sleeper. I miss rolling in hot and watching my rockets hit EXACTLY where I was aiming.
Finally, I miss hearing In-Coming! called out at the bar and seeing and hearing a room full of men hit the deck with drinks spilling and chairs being knocked over as they rolled in the beer and kicked their legs in the air—followed closely by a Not Politically Correct Tap Dancing and Singing spectacle that couldn’t help but make you grin and order another round.
I am a lucky guy and have lived a great life!
We box out bad memories from various missions and events most of the time but never the hallowed memories of our fallen comrades. We are often amazed at how good war stories never let truth interfere and how they get better with age. We are lucky bastards to be able to walk into a reunion or a bar and have men we respect and love shout our names, our call signs, and know that this is truly where we belong.
We are ARMY AVIATORS and CREW MEMBERS. We are Few and we are Proud to have been one of the first combat helicopter FLIGHTS CREWS the world ever saw.
I am Privileged and Proud to call you Brothers. Clear Right! Clear Left! Pullin’ Pitch!
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