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I had been "Air Force" my whole time at West Point. When I was a little kid, I had my folks take me to Midway Airport whenever we went to Chicago just to watch the planes take off and land. My Dad, an Illinois National Guard (33rd Inf Div) officer transferred to the Signal Corps in late 1941 (after the Guard had been called to active duty earlier that year)and we went from Tullahoma Tenn to Drew Field (Tampa's Intl Airport, today) in Tampa Florida. I was living in a Tampa superb on Dec 7, 1941. We spent a couple years over the next 3+ years in the Tampa area as my Dad was stationed in the Aleutian Islands (attacked by the Japs) and I got a couple rides in a B-17 while he was temporarily back in Tampa (Mc Dill AFB this time). So I was pretty consistent in my Air Force leanings - consistent to the extent that I thought pilot training was still conducted at West Point when I arrived for beast barracks. That consistency melted away in late winter 1955 when my Dad died and I went back to Peoria for his funeral. At his funeral, several of his old guardsmen came up and told me of their reverence for my Dad and how he was such a good Infantry officer who always looked out for his men. They shared several stories and I gained a new appreciation both for my Dad and for the Infantry.
It was shortly after that when Branch night was held. I had not talked of this with anyone but when my name was called, I was in a state of considerable confusion (known only by myself). When I stood up, I didn't know what I was going to say - I guess my long held desire to be the world's best fighter pilot won out over my new respect for the infantry officer who looked out for his people. At any rate, my fighter pilot instincts won out and I set out on that course of trying to become the world's greatest fighter pilot. I never regretted that hunt but I do look back with nostalgia and respect for all the grunts in our class.
10 JUN 2011