No. 209



In 1981, before moving here to Conway, my wife and I built a new home near the Little Rock Air Force Base. Our home was situated on top of a high hill and all the planes taking off to the West would come right over the top of it. For us, one of the highlights each year was when the base would hold an open house. During this special event, in most cases they would have the Thunderbirds (the Air Force precision flying team), perform and they were simply spectacular. We would sit out on the deck and watch them and they were so good and so precise, it appeared that you could step from one plane to the next as they zipped along at 500 to 600 miles per hour.

Each pilot had to be very, very good to be part of this prestigious unit. Because the focus was always on these fantastic jet airplanes and all the various routines and stunts they were performing, I never thought much about the individual pilots and how they were selected to represent the United States Air Force all over the world. However, this all changed for me a few days ago when I heard the following story.

It seems a new base commander had received an appointment at the Marine Corps Air Station located at Cherry Point, North Carolina. Soon after he arrived, the people under his command held a big reception for him. As people were making their way down the receiving line, this new base commander greeted a gray haired First Lieutenant. When he saw his gray hair, he said, Fellow, you look to be up in years, why havent you moved up in rank? The First Lieutenant said, Well Sir, its a long story. Im fifty-one and I served as a fighter pilot during W.W.II in the South Pacific. Almost every night we would have an alert and all the pilots would have to go to the flight line and warm up our planes and be ready to go at a moments notice. However, in most cases the alert was called off and we had to stand down, which means the alert was called off the threat of danger had passed.

After several weeks of this I was losing a lot of sleep, but it just so happened that our unit had a pet monkey. It really took some doing but I trained this monkey to respond to an alert by going to the flight line and warming up my plane. When the alert was over the the stand down was given, he would shut her down and come back to our sleeping quarters. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, one night the alert was not called off and when all the planes took off, the monkey took off with them. There is however, one redeeming aspect of this story. While I have just now made it back to First Lieutenant, that monkey is now a full Bird Colonel.

I guess the moral of this story is that even in the worst of times, there are still those rare people who never lose their sense of humor. Im proud to say that my father was this type of person. He was over forty years of age when I was born and he served in W.W.I and was in Brest, France when the war ended. While its funny to me now, this is a true story. He said they wanted to make him a PFC (Private First Class) but he told them that he did not want all that responsibility. You would just have to have a military background to appreciate this.

Until our next visit I would just like to say that the human mind is a wonderful and powerful tool that God has given us. I consider myself a true patriot and I have a deep respect for our nations armed forces. Youll understand when I say that I have no disrespect when I think of that monkey in the cockpit. I can never again watch the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels perform without wondering if one of the pilots is a particulary hairy Bird Colonel. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)