My father was 34 years in USAF, a highly decorated pilot with 270 combat hours. My brother Kip is a former Marine who served in Vietnam and Okinawa. Both survived numerous missions and came home. Both had good friends who did not make it home.
Dad witnessed fellow crews flying in formation shot down during bombing runs over Korea. Dad tried in vain to save a fellow B-47 pilot who got vertigo as their formation flew into the Aurora Borealis, only to watch in horror as the big bomber become inverted and nosedive out of formation while listening to the whales of a terrified crew become pinned in the cockpit unable to eject due to overwhelming G-forces created by spin and acceleration, referred to by pilots as the “death spiral.” They did not make it home.
One of Kip’s letters informed us that his platoon mate and friend from basic training, Al Hall, who snapped our family picture when we visited Kip the day they completed Basic, was killed in a troop carrier his first day in country. Kip probably would’ve have been sitting next to Al in that troop carrier had it not been for orders that diverted him to Butler Marine Base, Okinawa 7 days earlier. Al did not make it home.
On Oct. 3, 1967, my cousin Micael Confer, on his very first mission as pilot in the US Navy, was shot down and killed over a remote area of Vietnam. Just hours before he was scheduled to take off, his mission profile changed from a daylight to a night mission (as dad was alarmed to later discover as that should never happen to rookie pilot with zero mission experience). This loss forever changed a family and an entire small town community in Nebraska. Michael did not make it home.
Although not fully seeing the effects at time, I began to piece things certain things together regarding my family experiencing grief and loss. I was able to do this as a result of my journey of recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. I had my sights set on becoming a pilot in Air Force or Navy. However, my addiction problem created a deviation from the original flight plan so severe it permanently altered my life trajectory. Accepting the fact I would never become a military pilot or serve in any capacity, and the future I expected to have fade to dark put me into my own alcohol and drug fueled depression-anger death spiral.
Although my life “flight plan” may have forecast what I wanted to do (my will), my life “trajectory” has dictated what I must do (His will). To have the opportunity to serve those who answered the call to serve would be reaffirm something I eventually discovered in my recovery: the answer to the question Why me? Why not me? This finally set the table for only question with a solution for an answer: “Now what am I going to do about it?” By the Grace of God, through the fellowship of AA, I have been clean and sober since May 1st, 1991. The offer to join Warriors Heart is an honor I am humbled to accept. I dedicate my service to my dad, my brother, my cousin, and their friends who made the ultimate sacrifice.
I’ve made it home.