I haven’t posted anything recently because I’ve just returned from my 45th college reunion. I don’t publicly announce my travel, so I hope everyone understands the lapse.
If you’ve ever looked on my Facebook page, you know I graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970 and retired in 1990. I haven’t returned to the Academy since 1971 because I don’t like to dwell on the past, and frankly, my Air Force career didn’t quite go as planned. I saw one of my best friends from our cadet days, and, oh by the way, he retired as a brigadier general. (I never made it past captain.) But the number of people who remembered me, and for all good reasons, was a revelation. Everyone was super friendly; we’re all retired (at least from the Air Force), and past differences are forgotten for what they really were — petty and insignificant. Today’s cadets were unsettlingly respectful and a joy to be around. I was really surprised to walk into the Academy Association of Graduate’s building (Doolittle Hall) and immediately be greeted by an man about my age who remembered me as his doolie (freshman) element leader. I appreciated his memory; sometimes in life you never know the impact you have on other people. He gave me his card; today he heads the Academy’s endowment fund. His card also said he’s a retired general (as in four stars!). Sometimes the Academy’s rarefied air is more than its mile-high altitude.
What did a bunch of old guys (our class predated women) do in three days? A golf tournament (I didn’t play), lunch with the cadets (so much has changed!), a memorial ceremony for deceased classmates, dedication of a Plaza of Heroes (if you’re ever in Colorado, please stop and see this), and a banquet.
The highlight was the Saturday afternoon football game versus Army. As you might expect, this is one intense rivalry (“Let’s see the donkey fly!”), and we were overjoyed to win. But it is a rivalry based on respect. Immediately after the final gun, both teams walked to the Army cadet section (some has made the trip) for the West Point alma mater, then went to the USAFA cadet wing at the other end of the field for the Air Force alma mater. After some collective insults for Navy, everyone departed the stadium as friends.
As I left for the drive home, I received a bitter reminder of the penalty for losing touch. As the memories came flooding back, I thought of my roommate my first class (senior) year. Neither of us could fly and we had gone through maintenance-officer training together. The last time I’d seen him was in 1971. I wondered where he was and what he was doing today.
I found him in the Academy cemetery.