A Rememberance of 60528 by Lonnie Henderson
On September 2, 1958, the crew of 60528 sat through a routine briefing as
they got ready for yet another mission. A couple of the crewmembers were
talking softly to each other as MSgt Petrochilos completed his pre-mission
briefing. They were not ignoring the Airborne Mission Supervisor; they had
just heard it all before. Words which at one time had seemed riveting,
which still held the rapt attention of the jeeps, the "Yenis" on board,
were now lost to these old-timers. They talked about wives and
girlfriends back at Rhine Main; some nursed a slight hangover from the
previous day's celebrations, others dozed slightly, half listening. Just a
routine mission. After the briefing, they prepared for take-off as the
pilot completed his checklist. Some of them were talking about the BBQ
they were going to have that night, and everyone complained for the
umpteenth time about just how rotten Turkish beer is. At oh-dark thirty,
the plane rumbled down the runway, banked north, and disappeared into
On September 2, 1997, another crew assembled. Airborne Mission
Supervisors, 2-0ps, tacrats, gunners, ditty boppers, super ops,
wirebenders, pilots, navigators, ravens, crew chiefs, a commander or two, a
couple of Ops Officers, maybe an observer...
...gathered to pay tribute to fellow flyers and offer belated condolences
to the families of those 17 men who never returned from that mission
39 years ago.
Before the dedication began, a flight of geese flew over the memorial
grounds where another C-130, tail number 60528, stood in silent and eternal
tribute. During the ceremony, a hawk circled slowly overhead. Skip pointed
out the hawk, and mentioned that we could pretend that it was an eagle.
The first hawk was soon joined by another, and I imagined that these were
eagles, circling slowly, riding the winds.
Sitting there in the warm September sun were airborne legends in their own
time, and airborne legends in their own minds. I saw some in uniform, in
the uniform they wore at their retirement ceremonies. I wistfully mused
that the only part of my uniform which still fits is my socks. As I looked
at this group of a couple of hundred flyers, I imagined other briefings,
other missions in all parts of the world. I thought of a lifetime of
briefings and a lifetime of friends brought together by a common bond. I
thought of being alone, and unarmed, and afraid. I thought of 17 men whose
Air Medals were a long time coming. I thought of the countless thousands
of Air Medals earned by that group of two hundred or so flyers. I sat
there with gray hair and fat belly and looked around at other gray-haired
men with fat bellies. And all of a sudden, as they stood in salute to
their comrades, the hair changed color, the bellies disappeared, the men
stood tall, sleek, slim and trim, and just for a moment, those flyers were
ready for one more flight.
Today, we are back delivering the mail, teaching school, appraising real
estate, raising peppers, consulting, maybe just fishing and taking it easy.
The moment is over, over at least until I hear the drone of a C-130 as it
flies low and slow over my house.
And then, I'll look up, render a silent salute, and remember...
September 4, 1997
REMEMBRANCE II - A Poem by Lonnie Henderson)
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