A Day with the Air Force Thunderbirds

By Vincent Turner

Saturday, September 19th, 2015, Joint Base Andrews: The all-day air show at Andrews Air Force Base featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.
I had not been to a Thunderbirds airshow for several years, the last one at Otis Air Force Base in New England. These events speak to my Warrior spirit. My Celtic blood flows hot with raw emotion, at times moved to tears of joy as I watch young men every bit half my age performing feats limited to just a few. These pilots are god kings in the eyes of many, their skills and knowledge a gift perhaps from a Higher Power.
The aerobatics put on display raise goose bumps and chills as the pilots jettison upward high into the heavens, at one point invisible to the naked eye. Then, with thunderous rocket speed they come once again into full view. Their airborne gymnastics keep the audience in total awe. Our spirits run high, never looking away for fear of missing yet another mighty moment.
The display put on by the F22 Raptor surpasses all imagination. By all measure, the Raptor is a machine from the future transfigured into real time. The maneuvers the pilot put the Raptor through excel the remarkable. The blast from the after burners telegraphed a noise so loud Heaven’s Angels surely heard them.
The vintage planes on display performed aerobatics, with World War II fighter planes added to the fare of joy filled entertainment. Added to the thrill of watching these aerial gymnastics was the music, well-programmed for each activity at hand. (I will say, however, the music and announcer’s volumes could have been toned down a bit.)
Equally important was the temperament of the audience. My own “crew” ranged in age from 3 to 71. (That seventy-one year old would be me!) Every ethnicity and nationality appeared in attendance. This is true Americana! Personal issues and biases are left outside the gate. Politics, about which we hear far too much, is abandoned. This event is for fun for every American and every guest or visitor. I am reminded of that same sense when I saw the Thunderbirds at Otis several years ago.
I am a United States Air Force veteran from an earlier era; a Staff Sergeant at age 21. I am a country boy. My dad would say, “You can take the boy out of the country. But you will never take all of the country out of the boy.” That analogy speaks to my lifelong love for the United States Air Force. Part of me is still “Air Force”. It will remain at the core of my being until death. True, not all former Airmen hold onto their service. Some of us do!
All five of our Military Branches were featured at this air show. “One for all, and all for one” comes to mind. My family has served since The American Revolutionary War in Army, Navy and Air Force. It’s in our blood.
There are many moments when I wish I had made the Air Force my career, high on my priority list when age 19. I wanted the Academy, but my eyesight prevented that. Another commissioning program was offered me, but when a man is young he wants what he wants and anything else is “second best”. Yesterday, standing on the tarmac, I felt the connection once again. I asked “God” from within, “Did I miss my real calling?” That question comes from a sense of still belonging; and, wondering. The answer will live on in the ether of Heaven.
These air shows are a wholesome, “all American” event. The talent and skill of the pilots and their support teams comprise the elite. Yet, unlike too many other quarters of American life, their elitism is not flaunted. Each of these Airmen and Officers is “one of us; one among us”. One can feel their thrill and their joy manifested through act and action. This is the America I celebrate. It is a day filled with feel-good moments. It represents that moment when we know we all belong.

The Desecration and Degradation of God and Christ

“We tolerate no one in our ranks who attacks the ideas of Christianity. Our movement is Christian.” Adolph Hitler, 27 October 1928.
Growing up on a small farm among very large farms in the 1950s in the Maryland countryside was idyllic in many respects. Looking back, despite the hard work and the work ethic that propelled that hard work, the times truly were simpler. Since I was a young boy, I cannot say if those times were easier for the adults. My mother and dad both worked full time. Even in those days both parents often worked full time jobs. Our “Leave it Beaver” world was myth and fantasy.
Our education was based on solid ground. Classroom discipline was not the exception; it was the rule. Parents, for the most part, raised their children to be good citizens and to embrace civic duty of one sort or the other. Embedded in that postwar culture was the weekly routine of attending church and Sunday school.
My churchgoing along with my parents’ strict discipline formed my life and created the world I would grow into. Sunday school was a weekly event. When older, regular church service supplanted Sunday school. I joined the choir. Was a Boy Scout. Became a youth leader. Raised money during each Holiday Season. God and Jesus simply were part of our lives.
Yet, in the culture within which I came of age we did not shove God or Jesus down someone’s throat. We were not proselytes. Our faith was an aspect we embraced with quiet and restrained dignity. A prayer of thanksgiving was offered before each meal; even when we dined out at a restaurant, which was infrequent because my folks did not have the money to indulge in those “finer” things but infrequently.
As kids, we were not taught hate or intolerance for others. Such matters simply were not in our lexicon of theology. My mother was the purveyor of tolerance. I never heard one negative word from her about any group, religious, racial or otherwise. Her motto, “Live and let live.”
The Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance were a regular morning event in school. With little thanks to Maureen O’Hare, the Prayer no longer can be said in public schools. Some schools have relinquished the Pledge as well. I see both events as unhealthy for our nation, although I can see their demise from “the other side”. Yet, one was not required to recite both (Jehovah’s Witness and Mennonite for example). We did not ostracize them. We accepted without prejudice that their particular faith practice prohibited them from lifting up those refrains publicly.
Added to this potpourri of growing up young in the 1950s was a tacit respect for the law and authority. We were expected to respect officers of the law, our “elders”, women and the less fortunate among us. Such traits were not electable options.
Self-righteousness and judgmentalism were scorned. My dad was the judgmental one in the family. Fortunately, his often narrow views were not imposed upon us.
It is within the framework and context laid out above that I come to the current moment in our history; both national and religious. I offer the following.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the current brouhaha taking place in Rowan County, Kentucky around the incarceration of county clerk Kim Davis, I provide the following synopsis. Davis claims to be an apostolic Christian who strictly opposes gay marriage. As a result, Davis has refused to sign marriage certificates for gay couples who came to the County to secure their marriage certificates.
For the record, I believe any couple – gay or straight – has the right to marry. As an ordained Priest, I will perform a wedding ceremony for any couple who requests my service to administer the rite of matrimony. I will not judge, however, anyone who opposes gay or lesbian marriage. I do not have issue with Davis on her opposition to gay/lesbian marriage. Her opposition is her perfect right, and I support her to the fullest on that right.
However, I take issue that Davis as a public servant has defied the rule of law. The Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that gay/lesbian marriage is protected by law. Roughly half of our nation continues to oppose that law. That is their right, but not as a public employee.
What is saddening about this moment in our history is how many of the Davis supporters have come forward with their “Free Kim Davis” crusade, all the while ignoring how Davis is one of the last people to celebrate on any moral grounds. Davis currently is married to husband number four. She conceived her son through husband number three while still married to husband number one. There is much in Holy Scripture to propel Davis into the dungeons of hell, but that is not my purpose here. Nor is it my “call”; I leave that with God – as it should be.
Davis and her narrow-thinking allies have kept Jesus in the wilderness. Her acts and the support of her crusaders defies the very Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, Davis’ self-righteous aplomb fully undermines what Jesus teaches. Davis brazenly ignores “Render until Caesar what is Caesar’s; and unto God what is God’s.” Worse, as a public servant who took an oath to support the rule of law, Davis has violated the very commitment she made when Davis became the Clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky.
Davis has violated both Caesar and God. Logically and as anticipated, Davis is not alone in her crusade. She has been propped up by Mat Staver of Liberty Council, a radical right wing anti-constitutional organization that lays claim otherwise. Liberty Council’s website proclaims “life, liberty and family”. What Staver does not lay claim to is LC’s extreme bias toward a select few whom LC deems deserving of their own contrived form of life and liberty; and, “family” as construed by Liberty Council.
It comes as no surprise that Republican presidential candidate wannabe Mike Huckabee has joined the fray in support of Davis. As I write, it has been announced that Huckabee will hold a rally on Tuesday, September 8th in defense of Davis’ tyranny against state and nation. And, yes, Davis’ act is an act of tyranny. Some might go so far as to suggest treason. I leave that assessment to the individual; and the law.
That a presidential candidate wannabe publicly supports Davis’ violation of the rule of law is a clear indicator Huckabee is not qualified to be a president of our democratic republic. Our presidents swear an oath to the U.S. Constitution; not to Holy Scripture.
The firestorm this moment has created in our history resonates with serious misjudgments among those who support and follow the Davises of America’s society. This may prove a dangerously dark moment in our history, because people such as Davis are being cheered on to violate law in favor of religious bias. People such as Staver and Huckabee, including Ted Rafael Cruz and Rick Santorum are predictable. Their support of Davis is hostile to the United States Constitution, asserting our nation should be converted into a Christian theocracy.
This moment is a litmus test to see how far these zealots will take their fight. Fear not, they are relentless in their determination to undermine the rule of law and our Constitution. They are by their acts homegrown terrorists; fascists. We can ill afford to dismiss their activity as mere tantrum throwing, because their mission is far more nefarious and pernicious than throwing a tantrum. For several decades these white racists who once reigned tyranny against blacks now have a new target, a new crusade with a heroine at their helm. Their zealotry deserves our full, uninterrupted attention. They are not builders. They are destroyers. They are the false prophets. They are the self-righteous hypocritical stone throwers who are assaulting God, Christ and Country. They are degrading and desecrating Jesus and God with rigor and vigor. They are the enemy; not the ally.
They are relying on the average American to dismiss them as irrelevant crazies. That is their ace in the hole. All the more reason we must give our full attention to them. In a sense, they are homegrown terrorists set upon turning the United States Constitution and the rule of law upside down. In a nutshell, they defile God, Christ, Country and we the people. They are the enemy within.