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.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


     My last post was not in the finest tradition of military wives. Anniversaries of death are private. Remembering the one who’s gone by crazy stories of times past is supported and lauded. So here's one story:    

     My brother Don, a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, was coming to MCAS El Toro on his first cross-country from VMFA 333 Beaufort SC in 1969. We knew he was on his way home; he’d told us he’d let us know when he was close. 
     About the time he was supposed to arrive, we heard a jet. Not unusual, except this one got closer and closer, louder and louder, way too close and way too loud--so close we were sure it was going to hit the house so we ran outside. We stood on our front lawn in Claremont, California and watched a Phantom F-4 divebomb to within a hundred yards of the ground, then turn up into the sky, great gouts of flame spouting from its twin engines and as it arrowed into the sky, afterburners lit.   
     A neighbor with experience in the Korean War threw himself on his wife, knocking them both to the ground, certain the plate glass sliding door was going to shatter. Not one person had the presence of mind to get the tail number or remember the trefoil design on the tail. When MCAS El Toro was contacted, they responded with, “None of our jets are in the air.”  

     My brother had let us know he was close. He was almost home.   
     The picture at the beginning of the post of Don with his wings in his Marine green uniform isn't my favorite. He's smiling, but not his smile of appreciation for crazy antics in the air and on the ground. Here's a picture of him at the training command before he got his wings.
Wouldn't it be fun to hang out with him? Yep.

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.