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Remembrances of things past…for today and tomorrow

Waring Hills Nov 18, 2009

One day recently as I was completing a program on the flight deck of Yorktown, I noticed a lady standing off to the side of the A-6 Intruder aircraft with her hands resting on the aircraft as if to hold it up. Tears streamed down her face, so I walked over and asked if she was okay. She looked over at me and said, “Yes, I’m fine…I came here to remember my brother.”

Grumman A-6 Intruder medium bomber

She told me her story of how her brother launched off of his aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf on a strike against North Vietnam one day in 1970.  His squadron mates remember him being with them when they went “feet dry” (naval aviation term for overland), but no one ever saw what happened to him… no radio calls… no explosion… no fireballs… no prisoners of war… no bodies…her brother’s aircraft never returned to the aircraft carrier it had launched from. It was as if this Intruder crew, pilot and bombardier navigator (BN),  had disappeared from the face of the earth and flown into eternity.

The lady told me that she was thankful for a place like Patriots Point, where families could come to remember their loved ones. Her brother has no grave, but she comes to Patriots Point to place her hands on the Intruder. It is then that she remembers how he loved to fly and how he loved his family and loved his life and loved our country…

She told me that our nation needs places like Patriots Point, like the Vietnam Wall, where people can go and place their hands on something real, something tangible…like the aircraft and ships at Patriots Point that have carried those who have served our nation.  She believed that in the touching of the aircraft she touched the hand of her long lost brother…and that her loss was healed and her reconnection to her brother’s memory strengthened her for today and tomorrow’s trials and tribulations.

Some may think her a little odd,  but I wondered… perhaps she is right…

why not draw comfort and strength from our past to give us hope for today and tomorrow…

why not remember past lessons that help us live life today and tomorrow…

why not physically connect with the history that has made us a free people and amazing nation today and tomorrow…

why not remember the sacrifices of our patriots knowing that sacrifices will be needed today and tomorrow…

I was touched by her story and comments, and she smiled as she departed the flight deck…there seemed to be a glow around her…and so I raised my own hands to touch where hers had been on the aircraft… and as I remembered Mark Lange and my cousin, Kevin Hills, tears streamed down my face…

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