I was having difficulty finding my son, Ross, through the maze of blue coats and ties. With a deep feeling of both pride and respect overwhelming me, my search expanded across the vast parade grounds at a faster pace. I was so proud of Ross for setting his sights on a goal and achieving it–not only as his father but also as an Air Force officer charged with going to war with these young patriots standing before me.
For nearly two decades, Ross had watched the Air Force life in action as my dependent. Now he was independent–and putting on the blue uniform, ready to answer the same call to duty his Old Man has responded to over the many years.
My search continued at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, (the official “Gateway to the Air Force”) looking for my nineteen year old, who’d just became one of our nation’s newest U.S. Air Force airmen on active-duty.
Forty-eight hours earlier I arrived into San Antonio International airport following a 7,000-mile flight from South Korea. My parents, who could not hide their excitement for their grandson’s upcoming graduation from Basic Training, joined me in the River City. Dad, a Russian linguist who served in the U.S. Air Force, returned to Lackland Air Force Base for the first time in 62 years and the Korean War. Now on this particular day, we had a family gathering of 3 generations of U.S. Air Force airmen; all with different jobs, responsibilities, and period of service in our nation’s history…but all with a sense of duty and sacrifice.
I weaved between the handfuls of airman standing at parade rest, narrowing down my search for Ross and his flight still in formation. Wait, there he is! Ahead of me by about 30 feet–with twelve happy family reunions taking place between us–I forged ahead, my distinctive “all business” walk charging; determined and laser-focused on one thing: my son.
As I drew closer to now Airman King, both of us wearing matching Service Dress uniforms, I called out to him. He immediately recognized me out the right-corner of his eyes, approaching fast from his 2 o’clock position. He popped to attention immediately. I reached out with my right hand to shake his hand but Airman Ross had already started the saluting motion with his right hand.
I’m sure Airman Ross E. King, my wonderful treasure presently “on loan” to our great country, thought he was saluting his father–a military officer. But the opposite was true. I was saluting him.
His first salute in the Air Force was with me on that November day in 2012. And my last salute in the Air Force took place last month with now Airman First Class Ross King, a second after he placed the retirement pin upon my Service Dress uniform. That final act on active-duty marked the family’s Air Force torch formally being handed from the 2nd generation of service to our 3rd.
Fly, Fight and Win!
King was commissioned in 1990 at Oregon State University and retired from active-duty in June of this year. During his career, Colonel King flew a number of U.S. aircraft, to include the C-130 and EC-130 aircraft. He is an expert in electronic attack and cyberspace warfare.
Note to readers: This was an excerpt from the unpublished novel titled ‘My Wild View Yonder – Memoirs of an Air Force Officer & Pilot‘ by retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Patrick King.
TAG: ‘Between Showtimes‘
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