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.