Springfield Chapter Missouri Pilots Association

November/December 2004

Flying Journal - Joys & Sorrows

It's that time of year. After a "droughty" August and September, a rainy October and November. Flying slows down, except for the hard-core pros. A good thing for the part-time flight instructor, as the "day-job" gets extra busy. I did have a pleasant flight in a Cherokee Six, as we picked it up from its annual and practiced some refresher work for the owner. Then I was surprised when Dr. Hugh Harris called me to go fly with him. I met him years ago when he patronized my bicycle shop, and he began flying with me for B.F.R.s and such when I became a CFI. But his next review wasn't due till next spring. I wondered what was up.

He explained. I knew he was an orthopedic surgeon in private practice, long retired from the Army. I had been reading in the paper about retired military personnel, some even in their late sixties, who were being ordered back to meet the demands of the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Just last week there was a large feature in the paper about the high survival rates, but incredible rates of horrible injuries being suffered by our military forces. The bullet-proof vests and Kevlar helmets are keeping people alive with faces and limbs missing, who would have died in earlier wars. What a choice? I think I would like a vest to protect from a sniper's bullet, but I think for myself I'd rather just transition on than be alive with no face or a triple amputee from a IED. "What hath God wrought?"

Now the war really struck home. Actually, I already know more families who have lost members in this war than I did from the Vietnam War. But this really brought the news home. Colonel Harris had been called back to active duty and had been sewing up injured soldiers in Germany for the last 10 months! Since he hadn't been able to fly in that time, his insurance wanted him to refresh with his instructor.

I was glad to fly with him again, and share old Army stories (well, Old stories on my part, NEW Army Stories on his part). It was also inspiring, and sobering to me. I suspect many of us would have been angry about being called back to active duty long after retirement, but Hugh explained to me that he actually got a great satisfaction from being able to help. Got me thinking, thinking about how spoiled most of us are, living in safety and comparative luxury, and wondering what the rest of us can do to help those who have given so much for our nation. I'm going to think for a while, but I'm open to suggestions.

Meanwhile, share the joys you have each day, and fly safely, with currency and proficiency!