This evening, while weeding through an old box of papers searching for
I'm-not-sure-what, I happened upon a yellowed line-up card. No date, but Duddy 11 was launching at 0800 with a Zab range period thirty minutes later. Flounder and I led in 560, Sanford and Roock were
#2 in (smudged), Wages and Peacock were #3 and it doesn't appear they got a jet--any surprises? And Taylor and Swartz filled out the card in 708. Set the stage for the lines that
They say you can never go home, though that has never stopped me from trying. I left in
late ''79. Perhaps two years later, my Ramstein unit was at Zab the same time as the Squids, and Bill Christian and I sat soaking up rays in the courtyard of the "Q," debating the merits of pulling
the upper or lower handle. It would be nearly another decade before I'd make contact with the squadron. In December 1990, en route "downrange" and to the show, I was stranded three days in a TJ
hangar while awaiting an engine replacement to be flown in from the CONUS. The massive ramp was horizon-to-horizon C-5s and other assorted heavies. I managed to escape the confines of our restricted
area one afternoon and walked the few knolls to our old squadron building. With no disrespect to you Viper drivers on the net, it was a humorless group that now occupied our house. That long brick
building was never designed for the singles crowd. Mid-afternoon and the duty desk was empty. There was no laughter, certainly no lies. There were hardly bodies. Only about 8 lines were scheduled.
Only the walls seemed willing to talk.
In September 1994 I was appointed investigating officer for allegations against
Torrejon's last commander. By now, not only had he left, but the USAF base population numbered about thirty and had consolidated its real estate to the old 612th and 613th buildings. The rest of the
campus was boarded up and overgrown. I was given an office on the second floor of the 612th ops. Across the parking lot, our own fighter ops housed what base support facilities remained. The years
had not been kind to the white marble Squid out front--he was missing his head, and I think an appendage or two. Inside, structurally little had changed in nearly two decades.
Those NCOs last to leave were real neighborly and gave me the nickel tour. I helped
myself to the glass-covered map of the Mediterranean that survived the years on the front left main briefing room wall. Several months later, I was much surprised when the building's last tenants
mailed me the heavy 5'x6' "Welcome to the Squids" mat on which we all wiped our boots--it now sits on our back porch and reminds me daily of good times and great people past. But it was the ghosts
that met me in our old life support--by now the base post office--that prompted these lines. A scant few of you, those with whom I maintained Christmas contact, heard this story in December
I tried to remember which was my old locker. Was always in too much of a hurry to spend
much time there. Was far easier to remember where I sat while the "withstands-nuclear-holocaust" helmet mold was poured, or where Starjet set up his ski-tuning operation. It was while I was walking
around, blabbering to the mailman about what and who had gone before him, that shadows appeared under the florescent lights and each locker took on a life of its own. For if I moved my head ever so
slightly to the left or right before each, I could make out the impression of a stenciled name: Teak, Bennett, Milne, Green, Emery, Wells, Hodnett, Ellis, Jacobs, Miller, and many more--I expected
their owners to walk through the door at any moment, bitching about quarters owed. I believe the stencil job was Flounder's work--a former Grunt, he was driven by the code to paint it if it didn't
move. So while I had been trying to reach out and touch the past, apparently the past had found me. I left the building that day realizing I would never return, accepting also that I could never
truly "go home."
But it didn't get much better than that.