Saturday, January 27, 2007

When I was a kid I read books about fighter pilots. The first non-fiction book I ever checked out of the library was about the carrier war in the Pacific in WWII. This was no doubt in part inspired by the TV show Baa Baa Black Sheep, about the land-based Marine fighter squadron of Greg "Gramps" Boyington, leading ace of WWII until shot down, who no one ever called "Pappy" in the war.

I read lots about WWII, but my favorite topic was fighter pilots. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever.

I determined to apply to the Air Force academy. I had a neighbor who had been a fighter pilot, in the F-4. "Fighter planes are really cool," he said, "but ultimately their purpose is to kill the other pilot."

"Not if he bails out," I said.

I was tall and thin, not good for performing well in high-G manuevers. Most fighter pilots are shorter.

They would never have let me fly a plane. You have to have perfect vision. Mine was 40-20, twice as good as 20-20. But even back then I had a hairline flaw in my vision. I remember noticing it, being briefly puzzled, and then forgetting it. There is a place in my field of view where if I look at a straight line, the line will kinda jump, as if someone pasted it up wrong. Probably a retinal flaw. The Air Force would have probed our eyes with optical instruments and would have discovered my flaw.

Welcome to your desk job, airman.

I decided against applying to the Air Force only after looking at the time commitment. Four years of school, then (six?) years mandatory service. I figured I'd be 28 when I got out.

Life as I knew it at 18 seemed very brief. Sure, at 28 you'd be physically alive -- but you'd have a dead soul, like all the grownups I knew. Twenty eight was damn close to 30. It might as well be 58. I couldn't. I wanted to LIVE!

And a good thing too. Reagan was president then, and I would likely have continued on in my conservative attitudes, reinforcing them. That is, until my belief in freedom, logic, and truth ran afoul of military brown-nosing golden boys, and I got sh*tcanned for my 'attitude problem.'

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