Retreat and Rejoice

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It was the familiar sound of the bugle sounding retreat. I stepped from my car and came to attention facing the flag. Then came the familiar strains of The Star Spangled Banner". I held a salute as did everyone else at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma when the flag was lowered at the end of the duty day. It was a time of introspection as this old veteran flashed memories of my time proudly serving in uniform.

Grannie and I were at Vance to watch McCook's Asher Brooks graduate from pilot training and receive his silver wings. A surprise for us and his parents was the announcement of Asher receiving honors for Academic Excellence, the top grad in his class. A McCook High graduate no less but in the tradition of fellow MHS graduate Allison Smith who received the same honor a year ago. An aside I was tickled at Asher's mother grumbling that she just knew that her son could have done as well in high school. Moms are like that but Asher's retort was that high school was boring. May be a lesson there for our educators.

Graduation marked the completion of some eighteen months of rigorous academic study for the 23 members of Asher's class. They averaged some 200 hours of flying time, 74 flight simulator sessions and uncounted hours of self-study. The cost (investment) for you and I taxpayer in the neighborhood of $1 million.

Asher will go on to train in the KC-135R tanker aircraft and then serve with the Nebraska Air Guard at Lincoln. The 22 others of his graduating class will serve as pilots in a variety of current US Air Force aircraft including two who will operate RPA's (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) more familiarly referred as drones. Two foreign officers were included, one from Saudi Arabia and the other from Nigeria both of which will fly exotic fighter aircraft for their country.

It was a time for me to reflect and rejoice in celebration for Asher as this old flight instructor had the privilege of initially teaching Lt Brooks to fly right here at McCook Airpatch, USofA. I too attended Air Force pilot training at Vance near Enid, Oklahoma in 1960 some 55 years ago. Fully half of my class were German Luftwaffe pilot trainees three of whom had flown against us in WWII but that is a whole 'nother story. I was fortunate to survive my years of service but all too many of my classmates were casualties of the Vietnam War. I can only wonder how many of those splendid young men and (two) women will be lost in the current war against violent Islamic Jihad that appears to be the future for them to face. Truth be known not a one fears their future because they are warriors young and proud!

Good job Mike Hendricks on your latest "Mike at Night" column. I share Mike's opinion that the current wave of plea bargaining to lesser criminal offense than charged by the arresting officers is not serving the public well. Part of the problem as I see it is the morass of legal practice that makes it nearly impossible to achieve justice. An example is the courts obvious hatred for mandatory sentences. Our legislatures make law that dictates for instance that a third offense drunk driving offender should incur jail time but we see the prosecutor offer third or fourth or fifth time second offense drunk driving charges and the perp gets off with only a hefty fine. The end result is that the public is not well served especially when the drunk goes out and kills someone in his next inebriated wreck. Somehow I'm just not interested in a lawyer make work protective cabal.

It was so good to read of Perry Case (Mr. John Deere) and his wife Vicky donating the old Elks Club property to our local college. Perry incidentally was a pilot for the Nebraska Air Guard flying the old F-84F fighter planes before he came to McCook. There are just good altruistic people in our midst even though sometimes they move away to high class areas such as Scottsdale, AZ. Ah yes Perry got bored with life out there so he went out and purchased five more John Deere stores. Some guys just have a Midas touch but we can be glad that he also shares his good fortune. Good people.

I'm sure that the College will put the property to good use in a variety of ways. A possibility I've heard on the street is to develop a culinary institute and train chefs for our numerous local restaurants. Somehow it only makes more sense to train for employable skills such as cooking or electrical installation or heating and air-conditioning, how about a long list of agri-business related courses? Ag the life blood of Southwest Nebraska, rather than say drama or basketball? Well the list goes on.

Now to close on a happy note. My life was saved this week. I had been having a continuing toothache and then tenderness below my eye. Self-diagnosed as either a bad tooth or a sinus infection. Finally I gave up and headed for the dentist's chair. "Tap, tap, tap does that hurt? asked the assistant. Next came the Novocain and the drill. "What are you doing" I asked and Doc Jones replied "Doing a root canal. Your tooth is abscessed." The procedure which significantly lightened my wallet followed by a regime of antibiotics has brought everything back to normal. The miracle of modern medicine prevented what killed my grandfather in 1916, age 32 years, when infection invaded his body following the extraction of an abscessed tooth. We live in a wonderful modern age -- give thanks.

That is the way I saw it. Dick Trail

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