What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? It is great, for sure, but what else?
I was there during Bill’s assignment and had the pleasure to be a supervisor on the Flight with him and some of the other characters in this book. They made being there that much more fun and exciting.
How does the phrase go? “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.” The best being the incredible fun we had and the great work we were doing.
Best of Times
Things happened on Clark in the 80’s that never occurred anywhere else in the world. As a young man, the excitement at work with foot chases and other pulse pounding events kept us motivated. I remember one young airman out with me on a vehicle patrol on his first night on flight. We ended up helping on a chase with an intruder who was running from a K-9 troop. This padi should have been in the Olympics as he was outracing the dog and my truck to the fence. I finally got fed up, told the new Airman to take the wheel, and jumped out of the driver’s seat onto the fleeing suspect from the moving truck. A good time was had by all! Except one.
Worst of Times
Sadly, we had to grow up sometimes too; thus the worst of times. The murder of a fellow cop by Communist Rebels took the wind out of a lot of our sails. Shootings and attacks both on and off base. The duplicity of our allies on occasion. Then the political upheaval of the Peoples Revolution and how we responded to it on base. For hours we had no idea which way the US was leaning and when the Philippine military started shooting at each other on base and occasionally at us we had almost zero direction. A scary worst of times.
I remember how absolutely terrified I was to be standing a security inner perimeter post between President Marcos and his entourage and the still armed Philippine Air Force pilots that had flown to Clark to avoid the conflict. No one knew where these pilots stood politically and they were all housed in a building on the flightline inside the outer perimeter. Just yards away from the LZ for Marcos and friends. There I stood with only a curb to hide behind if things got dicey. Definitely a pucker factor of ten!
Then there was the foolish stuff we did such as the typhoon party and riding water buffaloes in the washouts, exploring World War II Japanese caves, or even trips to the Nipa Hut which seems so crazy now but back then made perfect sense. Ah, the memories! The excitement, the adrenaline rush, the fear, the friendship, the joys (plus the Grace’s, Lena’s, Eva’s, Josie’s in addition to the Joy’s!!), and living a fun life.
I truly had a great time and will remember those few short years and those few great people for the rest of my life. Where else can you climb naked out of a pool, walk into the hotel bar, and order a drink? Of course, I had to put it on my tab since I forgot my wallet. Ah, the best of times.
I am not sure why these people were so special to me and why most of them are still so special now. I was their supervisor back then, for most of them, and would gladly lead this same group again into the seventh level or perdition if needed. I would take them anywhere. Except into a church; I am afraid of the lightning.
The Nighthawk’s, and others like us, are what is right about America. Even though we were all flawed and have a mess of problems, we have a great capacity to succeed. We have the intellect and resources to do something grand. We were not perfect and sometimes (albeit a lot of time) we were not even very good. But we did what was asked and demanded of us. We were the tip of the spear. I am pretty sure I speak for all of them; we would do it again and we would do it tomorrow.
The friendships are so fierce! Like the line from a movie I once heard which would apply to these people; one of them could call and say I need your help. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it later, and we might hurt some people. My only response would be, whose car are we going to take?
I look forward to the next installment of this book. There are a hundred more stories to tell and not all of them are as PG as the ones in this book! I thank my great and loyal friend Bill Bowers for putting these stories down on paper and helping stir up the memories. Even though my sister now thinks I am a pimp because of you! Many thanks to Sandee for making Bill sound coherent instead of like a drunken semi Irish Philly boy. Jaeger makes him slur worse than that other Philly Favorite son, Rocky!
Thanks to the men and women of the Nighthawks who have enriched my life and made it better. Bill, Kevin(s), Al, Dan, Flounder, Keith, Deon, Rusty, Bob, Bob, and the other Bob, Jay, Mike, Paul, WAP, Michelle, Rick, Scott, Spanky, the rest of the cast and of course the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Remember, most of you still owe me some pesos. The ones from the Hut do not count.