Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wings of Gold

In Naval Aviation, aviators wear wings of gold. This distinguishes us from other armed service pilots whose wings are silver (though we call them wings of tin). They are a badge of honor and testimony to the completion of very rigorous training and hard work. Earning my Navy Wings was the most difficult thing that I ever did.
I have had many proud moments in my life, witnessing accomplishments of my children. They are both intelligent and successful young people. I was honored to put my uniform back on as a retired Naval Officer and commission my son as an officer in the United States Navy. Two weeks ago, I was even more proud to participate in his winging ceremony. He is now a Naval Aviator and on his way to San Diego to begin his career and adventure as a U S Navy Pilot.
It is a truly remarkable accomplishment. I know first hand what he went through since I went through the same training and later was a flight instructor administering the same training. It is challenging and stress-filled. My son not just completed the training, but he excelled in it.
I never pushed him to become a pilot or for that matter, join the Navy or any branch of service. This was a decision he made on his own. That is what really makes me so proud. Please remember him and all of our men and women in uniform as they serve and sacrifice for you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


In all my years of flying, I had never done an overnight in Memphis (MEM). I finally had the opportunity and got in early enough to enjoy my time there and even sleep in a bit.
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express downtown, which is quite nice and across the street from the Peabody Hotel, home of the famous ducks. My crew and I went to watch the famous "Duck Parade" at five o'clock. The Peabody itself is one of Memphis' most popular attractions. The Peabody Ducks march to and from the Grand Lobby daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. in a time-honored tradition dating back to 1933. While in the lobby, they wile away their time swimming around in the magnificent fountain. It sounds silly, and it is, but it is really fun to watch. Crowds gather early in the lobby for the best vantage point. The really funny part is that they are led down a red carpet into an open and waiting elevator. Unknowing guests try to squeeze by the crowds lined up on the carpet to get into the open elevator so they can ascend to their rooms. Imagine their surprise as they are shooed away and realize that the elevator is "reserved" for the ducks!
After the "show" (which only lasts as long as it takes the ducks to waddle to the elevator) we meandered around the lobby then went to the hotel roof which has a great view of the Mississippi River and the rest of the downtown area. It also is where the "duckingham palace" is located, where the ducks spend the rest of the time. We then returned to our hotel so we could take advantage of the free food and free drinks happy hour (my favorite kind of food and drink). As the hotel guests gathered in the bar, I noticed that many of them were British. There was a Japanese couple and a German couple. In my conversation with the bar tender, I learned that MEM is a popular tour stop for Brits followed by Germans.
Beale street is an obligatory stop in MEM, as is Graceland, and Sun Studios, which we did not do. But Beale street was only a few blocks away so we proceeded to BB King's for dinner and music. The music was great. The service was good. I ordered dry BBQ pork ribs, which is certainly de rigueur in a town known for its BBQ, Blues and Rock and Roll. They were definitely tender, literally falling off the bones, but I found them surprisingly bland. I was expecting some zest from the spice rub, but it wasn't there. I was offered the option of "wet" but I really wanted to taste the ribs, not the sauce. Perhaps it was an off day, but I was disappointed. Still, I would recommend BB Kings. It was a fun place to go and the music was great.
The rest of Beale street is chock-a-block with BBQ places and touristy shops. You can order a beer and take it "to go" in a plastic cup walking around the rest of the street. As I walked around, not just on Beale street, I noticed many interesting appearing restaurants and pubs.
MEM was a fun overnight and I am glad that I finally got to experience it.