I try not to dwell on things; whether good, bad, or indifferent. Focusing on one aspect of life for too long tends to warp perspective and turns what was likely a good and positive reason for considering a matter into an unhealthy topic with increasingly negative ramifications as the disproportionate attention continues.
But honest reflection – elevated with the nuances of individual personality, character, and sense of introspection – is almost always positive.
It is not always easy separating the two concepts and military service can make it more difficult, and also potentially either more damaging or more beneficial depending on the balance one is able to achieve during reflection.
During my ten years of active duty as a Navy pilot, I – like most in the military – had ample opportunity to test this dichotomy, but finally, I believe that I’m in relative balance emotionally and objectively with what each of the people listed below have brought and taken from life.
Not just my life, but life as a thought, process, conflict, and most of all – a series of relationships.
The following names, call signs, and nicknames represent real and complete people who have impacted me with their lives. Some I was close to, others were professional acquaintances. They are all remembered, not just this day, but every day – you are not forgotten.
John Calhoun: my friend through flight school and roommate while undergoing initial A-6 flight training. Killed during a night, low-level training mission in the Cascade Mountains.
Richard Hobby: John’s instructor B/N who perished that same night in 1988.
Jay Cook: fellow student in the A-6 training squadron at Whidbey. Killed in a refueling fire at Cubi Point airfield after his parachute failed to open in time due to being outside the envelope for the “zero-zero” Intruder ejection seat.
Jim Dunne: fellow student in the A-6 training squadron at Whidbey. Killed in a day, training low-low level flight somewhere in Japan.
Tom Costen: Casual friend in our sister A-6 squadron during Operation Desert Storm. Pilot killed on the second night of the war while mining the approach to the Umm Qasr Naval Base in Iraq.
Charlie Turner: Casual friend in our sister A-6 squadron during Operation Desert Storm and dinner companion for our last meal in the states before deploying. B/N killed on the second night of the war while mining the approach to the Umm Qasr Naval Base in Iraq.
“LZ”: Don’t recall his real name, but a pilot and acquaintance attached to the Marine Corp A-6 squadron on USS Ranger during the 1989 cruise. Eric Klug and I acted as wingman for him after his D-704 refueling drogue would not stow and had to be guillotined before shipboard recovery. Our job: too let him know if he was on fire and to eject. Killed conducting Close Air Support flying a Harrier outside Kuwait City, Operation Desert Storm.
Steve Garcia: Former instructor of mine during initial Intruder training who put forth great effort in helping me navigate the unknown waters of dealing with my roommate, John Calhoun’s mishap. Pilot killed during an air show practice at NAS Whidbey.
Rick Andrews: Former instructor of mine during initial Intruder training. We went on a memorable cross country to Centennial Airport in Denver. B/N killed during an air show practice at NAS Whidbey.
Charlie Braun: Former instructor of mine during initial Intruder training. I do not recall particulars of his mishap.
Steve Hazelrigg: First Commanding Officer in my fleet squadron, VA-145. After command went on to be CO of Pax River test facility. Killed on an A-6 test flight due in part to the lack of a command ejection system in the Intruder.
Dan Dewespilere (sp?): Acquaintance and previous instructor in A-6 training squadron. Killed flying day training low-level along Columbia River.
Mike Norman: Friend, went through AOCS and primary flight training in T-34s. Next door neighbor in Pensacola who used to regularly come over for dinner. Killed in F-4 demo flight at a California Air Show.
Bug Roach: Famous LSO who came out of “retirement” to wave for Ranger aircrew during Desert Storm. Killed during ejection over Southern California waters after parachute failed to open.
Bill Braker: Friend and fellow A-6 instructor. Killed during a night vision goggle rendezvous after transitioning to F/A-18s.