It is easy to forget what is going on "over there" as we all grind through these "tough economic times" and worry about the future of health care or our job or whatever.
A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch 3 other 160th Flight Leads. One currently serving, three retired. I work for EMS brand Y (as in Why did they do That?). Another fellow just took a job with Hermann in Houston. Yet another fellow is going to be a missionary in a foreign land. The active duty guy wants to work in our area when he retires, and hence keeps the communication open. So we have lunch when he is stateside.
So we are sitting there at the Macaroni Grill on a regular day when I ask him about a recent mission in which his chalk two aircraft crashed on departure from a "warm" landing zone. The gist - people were shooting and they were leaving and there was no support anywhere nearby. The zone was typically dusty as all get out, and a 47 really pumps it up. On departure chalk two crashed. Americans died. My buddy in the lead aircraft had to make a decision.
Leave or land.
He says at the lunch table, "I had to go back and look for survivors, any man here would have done the same."
I appreciate his faith but can't help wondering how I would have acted. In my nine years in the seat, I did trash one perfectly good MH-47 under fire, but never had to make a decision like that. After 12 years flying in the "real world" I am also more cynical, more jaded, more aware that it's really all about money here in the U S of A.
He flew back into that dark hell of dust and dirt and blood. They trust the the velocity vector and the acceleration cursor more now-days than we did when I did it. He landed on his system, and did the right thing. And found out the bad news.
Apparently the military isn't quite so generous with awards these days. For what he and his crew did, I would recommend the Medal. He didn't die. We'll see.
So I am sitting there and I can feel the karma flowing out across the table. I am not a big karma guy, but I don't know how else to describe it. Honor? Integrity? Do those words still matter in our country? I sit up a little straighter. I hold my head a little higher. I feel somehow - for just a few moments - elevated. I tell him that. It's the only award I have to offer.
The waitress asks, "will this be together or separate?"