Thursday, January 15, 2009

COMMENTARY>>A story of one man's appreciation and gratitude

By Chief Master Sgt. Richard Turcotte
314th Airlift Wing command chief

Welcome back Team Little Rock! While reading Colonel Hyde’s article on “What to Do in 2009,” I found myself recalling a story that was shared with me many years ago by a fellow Airman. What drew me to this story was Colonel Hyde’s third and final what to do…take care of our Airmen.

This story is about a Navy pilot, and as this pilot would find much later in life…his Wingman.

Charles Plum, aka Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet fighter pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!” “How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did—if your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform – a Dixie cup hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trouser. I wondered how many times I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning. How are you,’ or anything, because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time, the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute? Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.” Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.

He called on all these supports before reaching safety.

His experience reminds us all to prepare ourselves to weather whatever storms lie ahead. From the life support technician, to the spouses and family members who take on the burden alone while our Airmen are defending freedom around the world, to the defender at the gate; e all must recognize and be gracious to people who provide that support in our lives.

Take the time in 2009 to train, equip, and support those who pack your parachute!


Post a Comment