Wednesday, May 28, 2014

After Memorial Day, a Tough Life Goes On


Every Memorial Day since I left active duty, I think about the soldiers and airmen I have known who survived their service, but were injured for life.

My first crew chief in the Air Force was a short, quiet guy named Randy with very thick glasses.  They weren't quite as bad as the ones in the picture, but so thick his blue eyes sort of swam if you looked straight into the lenses.

Randy retired less than a year after I enlisted.  He came to Hill Air Force Base after the "final tour" before 20 years, the rotten assignment most servicemen get just before 20 when there is now way they will turn it down.  Randy's rotten assignment was a listening post near Mount Ararat in Turkey.  Randy worked 12 hours on 12 off keeping the listening equipment operational so we could listen to Soviet radio traffic across the Black Sea in what is now Ukraine and Crimea.
Twelve months in the middle of nowhere had Randy ready to leave the Air Force.

His thick glasses were not the result of eyestrain from fixing listening equipment on top of Mount Ararat.  He joined the Air Force in the early 50s with normal eyesight and a lot of confidence.  In the mid-50s he volunteered for a program that would test the limits of the G-Force a human could withstand.  Randy volunteered to ride a rocket sled that hit 7 Gs accelerating and 8 Gs slowing down.


Randy told us they had an eye doctor among several doctors at the test site during sled runs.  Randy's eyes popped out of their sockets.  Randy said the doctor popped his eyes back in--with some considerable pain--but Randy's eyesight was never the same.

Randy retired.  He was not blind, or an amputee.  His service in the Viet Nam War was uneventful.  But he gave up a lot for his country.  It may not have been the ultimate sacrifice, but he helped to make the space program possible.  By the way, one G is a change in speed of 20 mph in one second.  That rocket sled accelerated to nearly 400 mph in about 3 seconds and slowed a little faster than that.  Thanks Randy.