Today I am writing this column on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is a day set aside annually to celebrate the end of rampant racial discrimination in our United States of America. Growing up in Southwestern Nebraska I had no experience with black people. Well, yes, we had the Mickey Stubblefield family living in the community but those black kids went to school, played athletics and did everything else that their white contemporaries were involved in. Mickey came to McCook possibly when the Air Base was active and played with the McCook Cats baseball team along with my brother in law to be Bill Stearns. Mickey stayed and worked at detailing cars for Hormel Chevrolet. He and family were simply part of the community. Rumor was that sometimes along the way he suffered lapses in marital fidelity that caused his wife to take aggressive action attempting to mend his ways. In that Mickey probably had good company in the community.
Following high school, I attended the Air Force Academy where in my class the closest to black-skinned individuals were the two classmates who hailed from Hawaii, one of Asian descent and the other probably of native ancestry. Racial segregation in the U.S. Military was officially ended Jan. 26, 1948 when President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 but the Academy was still totally white when I graduated in 1959.
Then it was off to pilot training in South Texas where I met my first two black contemporaries, both great guys. During Christmas training activities stood down and two of my friends offered a ride to one of the black guys to his home somewhere in New England. Along the way they stopped for lunch in some non-descript restaurant in Texas.
The two white officers were appalled when the proprietor refused to let their black friend enter. They protested that he was an Air Force officer to no effect so they all left.
Both my friends were incensed to witness discrimination first hand and the thought still makes me angry.
From then throughout my career in the Air Force I served with black, white, yellow and red personnel. No problem; each was accepted for the job to be done and we functioned as a team. I've always been proud of how the Air Force did integration. It was really a non-event in my experience.
Now Congress has issued an edict that those of homosexual orientation be fully integrated into all the military services. It is a decision that has given this writer considerable heartburn as I have expressed in this column perhaps too many times. Enter the book "Lies The Government Told You" recently written by Judge Andrew P. Napolitano. The well-researched book weighs legislative, executive and judicial actions since the Constitution of the United States was adopted against the intent and express language of those who actually wrote the Constitution. Judge Napolitano spends considerable ink on the evolution of slavery to freedom finally fulfilling the bold statement that "All men are created equal" a God given right. The Judge states, and I agree, that this country, evidenced in part by the election of President Barack Obama, the son of a black man and a white mother, our beloved United States has finally fulfilled the dreams of our founding fathers that "All men, are indeed, created equal."
In reading and pondering on Judge Napolitano's well-written tome I too had an epiphany moment. That basic God-given right to be judged as individuals also applies to those of homosexual persuasion.
They are no less equal to you and me as the blacks that used to be considered less than equal than white people are now accepted.
Along the way I've had numerous experiences associating with persons who think differently about human relationships. While taking the endless battery of tests required for entry into the Air Force I came upon a question that in my innocence I was unable to answer.
I took my test booklet to the Sergeant that was proctoring the test and asked what the phrase "have you ever had any homosexual tendencies" meant. His prescient response "If you don't know what it means, just mark it no." I did and was admitted.
While commanding a tanker squadron in Michigan I chose a sharp young captain to be my operations officer. John Moore had flown a tour in Vietnam in C-123's. He shared a home off base with a local male hairdresser. I'd heard rumors but never inquired as to his sexual orientation nor did I care. Local police were called one night when John's ex-wife visited and her 357 magnum revolver was fired in some kind of altercation. Somehow that trouble went away. Not long after John was reassigned to a joint command base in Key West, Florida near a large "gay" community. In a year or so I was informed that John had hanged himself following an inquiry by the OSI. His was a sad, needless death in my opinion.
I don't have to accept the lifestyle of gays but I can accept the fact that they are also God's people equal in the eyes of the law. Welcome to my military.
There is pride in accomplishing a difficult task and great sigh of relief when it is complete. That is how I felt last week upon completing the flight simulator course in learning to fly a beautiful King Air aircraft.
Going into it with no turboprop flight experience and never having operated the extremely complex modern flight management system was a great disadvantage when compared to my fellow students.
I felt like the high school athlete lining up about 10 meters behind the starting line in a 100-meter dash and being expected to arrive at the finish line even with the rest of the pack. I could blame my so-so results on a so-so instructor but he'd claim that he only had a so-so student!
Anyhow it is great to be back home. Now I'm looking forward to flying the real airplane.