My father was a career Air Force officer, from approximately 1955 until 1975. I thought Veteran’s Day would be a good day to write about my memories of his time in the service and about being an “Air Force Brat.”
Most of all, I want to honor my father and all veterans.
My parents met in Hawaii, while Dad was stationed as a young Air Force pilot there. Mom was a stewardess with Pan American Airlines. They married, and before long, I entered the picture. Within five years, my arrival was followed by three sisters, and one brother.
Dad often had to be gone for long periods of time—sometimes up to six months or longer. As you might imagine, my mom sometimes had a difficult time raising five kids alone during his trips. I remember how empty the house felt when he was gone, but when he’d arrive home, our family finally seemed “normal” again.
At last, he’d walk in the front door, still wearing his flight suit, a khaki green one-piece zip-up, with zipper pockets all over. The five of us jumped and climbed all over him, and when he hugged and kissed us hello, I still remember how he smelled. I didn’t really know then what the scent was, but it meant he was home, and I loved it. Today, I suspect it was the smell of the cockpit of the C-141 he flew.
Some of my fondest memories are of the surprises he’d hide in those zipper pockets. After our hugs, we’d unzip and search them for our “goodies,” finding little trinkets from foreign places he’d visited. But, I think my favorite surprise was when he hid “Juicy Fruit” gum in his pockets. I always thought those striped pieces of gum looked like the stripes he wore on his uniform.
Throughout my school years, we were transferred to many different bases. I only recall one time when I had to leave in the middle of a school year, so I was lucky. We were stationed in California, Texas, Georgia, Bermuda, California again, Oklahoma, then once again to Travis A.F.B., California, where Dad retired in 1975.
Though I missed my father when he was away, I still remember the pride I felt when I told my friends and teachers he was in the Air Force. He looked handsome in his uniform, and I know I beamed every time he’d arrive to pick me up somewhere dressed in it. I’d watch the huge airplanes he flew in “formation,” in awe that my dad piloted one of those behemoths, and that such a monster-plane could even lift off the ground!
Today, it’s been 35 years since he retired. He rarely flies anymore, though he still trains in flight simulators. I know flight remains a passion in his life. We’ve had many conversations about his years in the Air Force since his retirement and I’ve learned what a sacrifice it was for him to be gone from his family. I know he doesn’t regret his time serving the country, but I also know he still misses the time he was away from us kids.
That’s why today and every day, I appreciate the service and sacrifice of my father, all veterans and current service men and women. And having been an “Air Force Brat,” I also want to thank the families of veterans. For the wives, sons and daughters, of our service men and women, it is also a huge sacrifice.