April 18, 2013

Thursday Mornings

I spend Thursday mornings as a docent at the National Naval Aviation Museum, surrounded by aircraft that were flown in war and peacetime to keep this nation free. One of my favorite displays is a small observation aircraft, an O-1 Birddog. In 1975 when we were evacuating Saigon a young South Vietnamese Air Force Major crammed his wife and five children into that small two seat aircraft and headed west out over the China Sea. He spotted the USS Midway taking aboard helos, as we were bringing patriots away from the inevitable carnage. The skipper of Midway had some helos pushed over the side so they could get the Birddog aboard, and indeed, the major put her down on the flight deck and saved his family. The plane now resides in our museum. His family, as I understand it, lives down near Tampa. He comes back occasionally to reminisce.

Directly above the entrance to the building where I 'work' is a large two-engine R4D, a beautifully restored old bird that was the first to land at the South Pole in 1956. She's aptly named Que Sera Sera. Her 92 year old pilot, Gus Shinn, lives here in Pensacola and visits us from time to time.

One of the biggest attractions is President Nixon's helicopter. It's beautifully restored and many, many tourists stand in the hatchway and give Nixon's victory salute. Here is yours truly claiming "I am not a crook."

Nixon helo.jpg

Every Thursday before starting my day at the museum, I walk among the old airplanes and feel their karma. I touch them and whisper to them softly. I think of the pilots and crewmen who flew in these old war birds, putting themselves in harm's way again and again. I hear the rumble of the recips, smell the avgas, feel the vibrations. I feel the presence of some of the pilots nearby. I'm reminded of the Latin phrase displayed on the door of the chapel at the Naval Academy: Non sibi sed patria. Not for self, but for country.

Posted by TGOO at April 18, 2013 09:40 PM

Made me cry! What a beautiful post; thank you!

Posted by: pam at April 19, 2013 11:10 AM

That was indeed very beautiful! And be careful...I may show up one day with my class for a personally guided field trip, lol!

Posted by: Mrs. Who at April 19, 2013 03:58 PM

What a great picture!

Posted by: pam at April 20, 2013 06:23 AM

.... I definitely need to visit that museum.....

Posted by: Eric at April 21, 2013 06:56 AM

What a terrific place! It's wonderful that the pilots come back. Wow!

Posted by: Teresa at April 22, 2013 01:26 PM