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True American Heroes: Me and John McCain

May 17, 2008

Leon Walker is a TNTalk! contributing writer. You can look for his columns at least every Saturday “write here on TNTalk!” To find out more about Leon, check out our writers page.

Senator John McCain is a true American hero. That’s a good thing. Me, too. That is not exactly what initially came to mind with regard to my personal story versus that of Senator McCain. But hey, I’m just going by the modern day “hero meter”.

Both John and I served twenty years in the United States Navy, although in overlapping eras. We each get hero points for that. We were both “undistinguished” students in high school. I got that word “undistinguished” from reading an online biography about him. Following high school, I went to Community College and earned my undergrad degree years later.

Somehow though, John immediately got appointed to the United States Naval Academy. So I guess he gets a couple of hero points for that. Not for his appointment to the “boat school” but for his, “undistinguished” academic performance while there, and for what followed. What followed was, his assignment to Naval Flight School. Which was, or is, an assignment traditionally reserved for only the best and brightest students. Me, well I ended up enlisting and becoming an Air Traffic Controller.

I go off to Air Traffic Control School and although it is grueling, I get by. John is again an “undistinguished” student in flight school. But you gotta give him a few hero points for what comes next. John gets assigned to jet training!!! I’m not making this up. Me, I perform brilliantly and eventually get offered and accept an Officer’s Commission. I’m fond of saying: “I got my commission the old fashioned way… I earned it”.

In a relatively short time, John is involved in a first aircraft crash, has to jump out of second (eject) and flies a third through utility lines but lands it safely, although he apparently got in trouble and temporarily grounded for it. This is all in a “non combat” flying role! He definitely gets a few hero points for that because, well, by now it should be clear that when John gets in the cockpit of a tactical jet “bad things happen”. But somehow he is able to continue to fly. Definitely hero points for pulling that off.

I serve at a number of airports worldwide and on two aircraft carriers in control towers and radar centers and never have so much as a serious incident. I did get to see some action when the aircraft from the carrier I was assigned to attacked both Grenada and Lebanon in the 80’s. Several of our aircraft came back shot up from the raid on Lebanon and one was shot down. I got a ton of ribbons and medals for that cruise and for my efforts in assisting aircraft in distress (hero points for me).

John out did me again though. He climbed out of the cockpit of a burning aircraft during an explosion and ensuing inferno on the deck of his first carrier. Then he followed that up by getting shot down over Viet Nam. But let’s keep it real. Could anybody really think, given his record of “undistinguished” academics and airmanship, that John could out smart a surface to air missile (SAM)? Ahhhhh no.

The rest of his story is really sad “hero stuff” that I can neither comprehend nor fully appreciate. I cannot imagine what years of captivity in a prisoner of war camp could have been like. I say that with the utmost respect and sincerity with regard to John and all those who similarly suffered.

So in truth I suppose on the modern day “hero meter” John is definitely way ahead in the total point tally. Without question our careers took different paths and I am eternally grateful for that. Even though he clearly had no more business in the cockpit of a tactical jet than me, Leon Spinks or Leon Redbone. And between you me and the lamp post, although for many different reasons, I would apply the same analogy to any vision of him in the Oval Office.

Be certain of this: As they say in the hood: “I ain’t mad at him”. I certainly consider his service (our service) something to be honored and something to be immensely proud of.

In spite of the fact that we are both old sailors; the “Obamacrat” that I am, I can’t vote for John. But I am pleased he is in the Presidential race. Had he not been, I may have never considered that I too am a “True American Hero”. Hummm… Leon Walker, “True American Hero”. Yeah, I like that. I think I’ll get a coffee cup or a mouse pad made.

I have many fond memories of my career, and from reading about that of Senator McCain I learned that we have one thing, one glowing highlight in common. One that is tremendously noteworthy. Supposedly he once dated a really hot “stripper”. Me too!

I swear I’m not making that up…

L. A. Walker, © Leon A. Walker

One Comment leave one →
  1. EuropeanDesigner permalink
    May 18, 2008 3:13 pm

    You are bought & paid for & ought to be a-s-h-a-m-e-d !!!

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