HOW TO BE MARRIED TO A MARINE FIGHTER PILOT--A Marine Corps pilot's wife: F-4s, F/A-18s and aviators from my perspective.

Monday, January 2, 2012

January 2nd

Thirty-two years ago today I called my sister-in-law in Beaufort. We’d talked to her and my brother on Christmas Day but it was the New Year and we’d not touched base on the first. Six o-clock at night, but he was flying. Three hops that day. Kath said he’d call when he landed from the last. I remember Kath and I laughing about married life. I remember her talking about what a wonderful holiday season they’d had and Don fishing for crabs off the pier with Tim, their eight year old. She mentioned his new boat, a Boston Whaler. Andy immediately wanted to talk to him about it. I had to tell my other half to stop trying to grab the phone because Don wasn’t there to talk to.

Don would never be there to talk to again--except in my head.

Some days I feel his loss as a little ache, a tiny “oh I wish he were here” or a “things would be different if...” This week, a student at Santa Barbara contacted me. He’s working to digitize all the information to locate veterans’ graves. He wants to write a blogpost for my blog. I wrote back yes.

Then I put in my brother’s name and San Diego, California. And found his grave marker.
A wave of grief and what ifs and loneliness and loss overwhelmed me.

He’s not there, in body or in spirit. Midair collisions at night over the water are not so kind to return an aviator for burial.

There is no timeline for grief. No right or wrong way to grieve. Hold your loved ones close when you can.

Today I am sad.


  1. Marcia,

    I didn't realize today was the anniversary of Don's death until now. I know it was in your book, but I'm sorry I've forgotten.

    The line that resonates with me: "He’s not there, in body or in spirit. Midair collisions at night over the water are not so kind to return an aviator for burial."

    I love the family photo you posted of Don, Kathy and the kids. I hope the kids see your tribute here on your blog.

    Kathy Rodgers

  2. There is no timeline for grief, no timeline for our friendship either. You always gave freely of your creative spirit evident here as unchanged. Grateful that our paths continue to cross through time I am.

  3. Marcia: I have happened upon this site while I was 'looking' for Don/Bullet. I am a former squadron mate of his in 232 and in NBC; he in 333, me in 451 in the summer of '69. I remember him as a fun loving, funny, charismatic Marine Officer and very very competent in the Phantom jet. He was/is an unforgetable spirit. I didn't know your family was from SAN. After I got out of the USMC in '78, I was a pilot with PSA and lived in Coronado. Spent one evening at dinner with Don & Kathy at their home in Yuma with our mutual friend JC Kauffman. I think of Don often--along with Kurt Wilbrecht and Mike Breeding. Semper Fi; Joe Don Griffin

  4. Joe,

    So good to hear from you. Connecting with people who knew Don and remember him kindly helps my heart. I married Andy "Snatch" Sargent, Don's good friend, who was also in 333 in Beaufort and 232 in Japan with Don. We both miss him. He was a unique and wonderful guy.

    JC lives in the Central Valley. Kathy is gone. She died in 2004 from lymphoma.

    Are you still in Coronado? We live in Laguna Beach. It's not far. We'll be going to the Phantom Reunion in San Diego the beginning of November. Maybe we'll see you there. Don and I grew up in Claremont, California. You might enjoy my website

    1. Marcia: someone once said, "given enough time, we will all be related." I had forgotten about you and Andy---we were in 232 together and I remember him as a great guy and greater pilot---live in Sebastian, FL and get to see some former squadron mates on an irregular basis---just had a mini-reunion at the Naval Air Museum in P'Cola w/John Brent (Blaze), Marty Mannion (M2) and Henry Fortinberry (Hammer)---Andy may remember them.
      Just want you to know, I do think of Don often---look at his picture, etc---as I do the others (Kurt Wilbrecht, Mike Breeding et al) in the 'survivors guilt' phase of my life.
      Hope we can keep in touch---Joe Griffin