The Lost Files: A huge apology to Mike McClendon, as I somehow overlooked this war story several months ago: I haven't contributed to any of our checkpoints news, basically because I never thought I had anything worth sharing. Well, now I do.
After 42 years of flying and over 11,000 hours in everything from general aviation to gliders to helicopters to transports and fighters, including experimental test on active duty, I nearly met my Maker on 21 Aug 2012. Brian Jones ('73) and I were taking off when our Thorp T-18 experienced an engine rollback at 100' over the end of a short east Texas runway with nothing but trees in front of us. We did as we had been taught: maintained aircraft control, ran the emergency checklist and prayed. About 6 seconds after the rollback I flew the aircraft into the shortest, softest trees I could find. After the crash, we egressed the aircraft and moved away for fear of fire. It took a chopper about on hour to locate us in the woods (no fire), and then sheriffs and EMT personnel came crashing through the woods to our rescue. I was careflighted to East Texas Medical Center where they put my face back together. I had about a dozen broken bones in my face, jaw, eye orbs, and some missing teeth. My jaws were wired together for about 2 months. Brian came out better with a broken eye orb and some bruises. Miraculously, our brains, eyes, balance, limbs are all 100%. I was released 4 days later and am making very fast progress back to normal (or at least what was normal for me). I have learned a great deal about love–love of my family and friends, and the love of God–during this humbling experience. I am grateful to be alive and have a whole new perspective on life. (Photos 1-4 Below)
Seems to me that’s at least three classmates who are aircraft accident survivors, John Sims and Randy Barrett being the other two. Anyone else belong to that exclusive club?
Wayne WIllis reported the loss of Larry Fariss’ home in the Black Forest fire. He and Michele had about two hours to gather what valuables they could. We all wish you a good recovery, Larry–thank goodness for USAA!
On a happier note, Mark Volcheff reported on the first annual Class of 75 Graduation Day Reunion social held at Arnold Hall in Hap's Place. Nearly 50 classmates and spouses attended. Most were from the greater Colorado Springs–Denver area, but Spence Roberts came all the way from Memphis! We haven't aged a bit. Mark your calendars now for next year!
John Brooks: 75 Baking Alive in Phoenix! I was in Ohio on business in April, and had the opportunity to spend the weekend with Eric and Tawnie Hoganson in Dayton. We visited the Air Force Museum and the Wright Brothers memorial nearby. It was great to catch up and touch airplanes! Eric looked right at home in the F-16 mock-up (his favorite ride after the B-1), and I gave the Wright Flyer sim a go.
A synopsis of the Doeppner doings: Susie and I live in Palm City FL where we have been for over 15 years. Our three daughters are all educated, married, and employed. We have four grandchildren. I’m still flying for Sikorsky Aircraft and will spend most of this summer in Colorado doing high altitude testing. Susie and I will spend a week in Germany this summer with our daughter Sarah, researching my father’s ancestry in preparation for a book. Go to www.tomandmarjorie.com to follow along.
Dave White: There I was, standing around at O'Hare, hoping to get a jumpseat ride home after a long flight from Narita. I see some guy walk by and think, "He looks familiar." He turns around, comes back, and asks if I'm Dave White. Well, he's got me dead to rights, so I can't deny it, but I realize why he looks familiar: It's Dave McDaniel and his wife Libby! We had a few minutes to visit before he had to run for his flight to Rome. Tough life some of us have, hobnobbing with the international jet set, and it was good to catch up with a fellow Troll!
John Kearns submitted this Proud Dad photo of Capt Ben Kearns, C-17 Lewis-McChord; John, Delta B767 SLC; and 2Lt Jake Kearns, C-17 Travis.
Charlie Buck was in San Antonio recently and got together with Tom and Gail Finn: We didn't do anything really interesting or significant–too old for that. At least I am; Tom is so much younger. We did talk trash about all the rest of you guys. Even though Tomas still claims to be a technophobe he has a cell phone and says he checks his email every couple of weeks, so he might actually see this and tell the truth about what happened.
The Time of Your Life: Fred Weems retired from AA. Got my first AF retirement check at 60, then found out that an old friend from my days at Upper Heyford had recently committed suicide. Made an on the spot decision that life is too short to be spending so much time at work, so I bailed out. I've been very happy ever since. I'm composing the music for a new ballet. I get to work with dancers and choreographers and all kinds of weird characters. Kind of reminds me of the wing staff: Lots of pretty people trying to look important. My recording studio is called Music for Warthogs, a reflection ofthe decade I spent flying the A-10. I kinda miss getting shot at. I'd go back to that in aheartbeat if they'd take me. My wife of 37 years is enjoying her work as an ER physician. I am enjoying her rather large income. Life is good.
Mark “Crocodile” Holmes spent three weeks in Australia with four buddies from his motorcycle club HawgsDawgs, started twenty years ago and now has over a hundred members from all over the States and two from Australia and England. I made it to Sydney, Melbourne and Ayers Rock, Uluru to the Aboriginals who see it as the center of their universe. A place of exceptional beauty, the Outback doesn't get its due. Amazing landscape, prices were ridiculous, the flies ever present but the views were worth it all.
Small World: YHS has run into several classmates in various situations lately, including Dave and Sally Young in NYC, Duke Duhachek in ANC, and Ray Lynn in MSP. It’s always fun to see classmates; even if we do not have time to socialize, the five-minute elevator or jetway conversations always remind me of Who We Are: Best Alive!