an hour or so of conversation, my father received a call...the son of an fellow past navigator was passing through town and wanted to stop by. "Sure" says my dad...and he proceeded to provide directions. My mother remarked that she had not seen this person since he was about 4 years old. Turns out that he (Scot) and I were both born in the same Air Force hospital near Lake Charles, Louisiana. In fact, we were IN the hospital newborn ward at the very same time. Naturally we do not remember each other.
Scot wanted to stop and chat with my dad about any stories he might know about his own dad, who had died tragically in a mid-air collision over Kentucky during the early 1960s. The collision was between a KC-135 (of which his dad was Nav) and a B-52. The two planes had hooked up for a refueling when the B-52 pilot, who was somewhat inexperienced, moved his plane about 20 yards forward, and then proceeded to bank (presumably to correct his mistake). His wing collided with that of the KC135, resulting in a fireball so spectacular, it was seen for 100s of miles around.
Scot did not remember anything about his dad. He was a small boy when this happened. And his mother had refused to talk about it.
It is not all that unusual for old Air Force acquaintances to pop up like this every so often. We share connections that have persisted over many years, in some cases, stronger than the bonds of blood relations. People often ask me where I am from. I find myself providing different answers based on how I am feeling at the time. Some times I'm from Louisiana (where I was born); or southern Indiana (the home town of my parents); or from upper peninsula Michigan (where my heart lies); or from St. Louis, where I went to school; or from various other places I have lived (and where my siblings were born, etc.). When I am feeling particularly aggravated by this question, I answer simply: "I am from the Air Force". This last response results in expressions of confusion or puzzlement on the part of the questioner. Yet this, more than any other answer, is closest to the truth.
It particularly hit home this evening, as my dad and Scot continued to converse about his dead father, that the Air Force was our "home town". We grew up in it, we share the connections that people from normal home towns share. We feel a need to return and understand our home town roots, yet in our case, this is impossible, because our "home town" is scattered over 100s of military bases all over the world. It is a curious existence.