Posts

A Story About My Dad: A WWII Glider Pilot

In 1960 my father was an Air Force master sergeant stationed at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan. His job was editor of the base newspaper and sometimes he would take me with him when he went out for a story or to take photos. I was 9 years old and on this day a big general was arriving on base and I went with him to the base terminal to watch his plane land and see my dad get his story. When we arrived he took me outside by the fence to stand and wait for him. The plane landed and the general came out and talked on a speaker to the people greeting him. After a while they walked away and got into cars and left.

My father was standing near the plane writing into his notepad when one of the plane’s pilots got out and walked by him. After a few steps the captain stopped and backed up talking to my father. They talked for about 10-15 minutes, then they shook hands and the pilot took a step back and gave a hard salute to my father who returned his salute and then the captain walked away.

My father walked over and got me and we got into our car. I ask my father, “Daddy, that man was an officer and you’re not an officer, why did he salute you?” My dad smiled and said, “See the wings I have on my uniform?” I said “yes,” and then he said, “well, my wings have a ‘G’ in the middle and that means I was a ‘Glider Pilot’ during World War II and he knew that was ‘special’ and he wanted to thank me for my service.” That was the first time my dad ever told me he had been a glider pilot during the war.

Growing Up In Japan

My memories of Japan start on May 1, 1958 when our passenger ship, a converted World War II attack transport ship , the USS Frederick Funston (APA-89), pulled into the port of Yokohama and seeing all these red flags waving and signs that said “Go home Yankees.” I asked my dad about it and he told me that some of the Japanese didn’t like Americans and I didn’t need to worry about it, but as a seven-year-old that made me wonder if we should go back to Kansas the next day on another ship.

The place we would call home was Tachikawa Air Base which was about 18 miles from Tokyo and we made the trip that first day in a very small taxi which took over 2 hours. I remember my mother was very worried that we would all be killed on the way because of all the traffic and so many people on bicycles on the road, but we made it.

My father’s Air Force tour of duty would be as the managing editor of the Tachikawa Air Base newspaper.

What a place “Tachi” as it was called was to grow up. The base was divided into 2 parts with the airplane hangars and runway dividing it, the west side which included the main housing area and east side that had the largest military hospital in Japan.

For a family you had anything and everything you could want located on the base, kindergarten and grade school thru jr. high, with the high school located at Yamato Air Station a few miles away.  The base had 2 theaters, 2 base exchanges, 2 gyms, a teen club, 3 clubs for the military and 1 club for the civilian personnel, a commissary, 3 swimming pools, 2 football fields, hobby shop, 8 baseball fields, twelve tennis courts, two churches, an event service center where you could take all kinds of classes or weekend trips. The base buses ran every 15 minutes going in opposite directions around the base.

I would finish up the first grade upon my arrival and complete the 5th grade before we would leave to go back to the states in June 1962 heading for Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Little did I imagine then that I would be going back to Tachikawa, Japan again, but in May 1967 my father accepted a Civil Service position as the 6100th Support Wing Historian at “Tachi.”

My family arrived at Tachikawa Air Base, Japan for the second time in May 1967 and I would attend my junior and senior years at Yamato High School, Home of the Warriors, where I would graduate from on June 6, 1969.

Growing up at Tachikawa Air Base was a wonderful time in my life and my memories and adventures of being there are still fresh in my mind, like the time I attended the summer base open house and met two Japanese college students who asked if they could write me to practice writing in English, which I said was fine. About 2 weeks later my Dad got a call from the base post office that I had received some mail. Stopping by the post office I went in and asked for my mail and the airman said, “Come over to the side door, I have two bags for you.” I wondered who had sent me something, maybe an early birthday gift, but it turned out to be over 500 letters! Its seems the Japanese college students I met at the base open house had posted my name and address on the college school bulletin board and I got letters from most of the students that were taking the English writing course.

But as they say, if I could do it all over again… I would in a heartbeat.

MikeSkidmore

“Home”

Home. What is it about this place that so many people seem to find so fascinating and dear to their hearts. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros wrote a brilliant song by this title. In Kevin Smith’s iconic religious lambast of a film Dogma, the characters Bartleby and Loki are casted out angels who are so excited to have found a loophole back to heaven, their “home.” More recently, in the hit Netflix series “Narcos,” Pablo Escobar stares out the window of his plane recently departed from Panama, now looking over the hillside of Colombia, while he stares in awe of his “home,” in which he swears he will never leave once again. Home. It is so important to so many people.

But then there are some of us who don’t quite grasp the reality of “home.” The select group who were destined to realize that the idea of home is nothing more than where you lay your head on that very day, and at a moment’s notice, everything you have known and grown used to will soon be diminished and cast away in the name of a cause you may not quite understand. I’m obviously speaking towards the idea of being a military child, as the reasons for submitting these words in this forum so obviously demand. The military child is a unique one to say the least. In fact, to simply use the term “unique” is probably unfair and misleading. And such is the idea of “home” to so many military children who will watch a television show or movie, or better yet speak to a local native of wherever they are currently stationed about what it is like in one certain place, their home, and have completely no idea what the hell they are talking about. What is home?

I could probably provide thousands of examples of how the idea of “home” is so obscure and tyrannical to the military child. But, really, I need to look no further than this very project. When asked to provide information about myself, there are asterisks that denote required fields. Two required fields are a city and state. While these asterisks are completely justified to suit the cause of this project as a whole, it actually proves very relevant to the idea that even those involved with and seem to care about the plight of the military child, can miss small nuances of what it means to be a “military brat.” At this current time in my life, now 30 years old and raising three beautiful military brats of my own, I reside at Naval Station Rota, Spain. There was no option for me to put this location, as a “state” was required. Even to this day, as a military brat turned military member, my identity is to say the very least, confusing. I did manage to come up with the city and state of Kelso, Washington. A place that I actually call my “home,” but mostly for technical reasons.

So with this lengthy introduction, I guess I can begin to tell the real story that I hope will somehow bring me back to the idea of “What is Home, really?”

I was born in Longview, Washington (across the river from Kelso, just to get that out of the way) to a couple of teenagers who had a bit too much fun in the 80’s around prom season and ended up with a lifelong commitment in the form of a child. It happens. My father knew pretty quickly that a life in the Air Force could provide the stability that his young son and high school age bride would need in order provide a healthy life. So he enlisted. At the age of 9 months old, I was taken from my “home” of Kelso, Washington, and I would not return for another 10 years and change to live in the lumber economy filled city of which I came, under dire circumstances.

As I have learned with my own children who are military brats, you become hardened pretty early on in your life to the idea of moving on. You make friends, they move on. Friends come to you, you move on from them. In this day and age of social media, you may actually be able to hold onto these friends, and maybe meet up again from time to time. But for me, living the life from the mid 80’s to the late 90’s, it wasn’t entirely possible unless you (or your parents) really wanted to try. But, as most military brats know, we developed a bit of apathy very early on when we began to accept that we may never see these people ever again. it was just a part of our lives.

Out of all fairness, I feel like I should explain that I do believe that I have a “home.” In 1996, I was forced to move back to Kelso, Washington with my mother as my father was set to complete a short tour at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea. Unfortunately, this would prove the demise of my parent’s marriage, and I would continue to reside in a town that was once known as Little Chicago until I was legally able to get out. So, in retrospect, I am not sure if I completely translate into a real “military brat.” But, I feel as though I do. I went to more elementary schools than there are actual grades to be in, experienced the drama of several PCS moves, and still wonder what happened to the friends I once had and held so dear at one point in my life. But, I do sort of have a home. In my 30 years on earth, I have actually spent 13 of them in the state of Washington (Kelso, Tacoma, Kelso again, and Spokane, respectively in time). I met my wife in Kelso. I always seem to return there, and I always seem to return there for leave and holiday excursions. So this must be my home. And in this respect, maybe I am more lucky that most people who will submit to this wonderful project. Yet, I still can’t quite grasp the sense of “home,” that I can’t help but come back to throughout this explanation.

As I mentioned previously, I jumped at the idea of leaving my life at “home” as soon as I could. I graduated from Kelso High School, married my high school sweetheart, and was at the Air Force Basic Military Training in San Antonio, Texas within 3 weeks. And I have not looked back since. This may say a bit about the trauma of being a military brat. Maybe we are always looking for a way out of wherever the hell we are, and we need it fast. Or maybe I just saw the military as a brilliant way to get a life started, all the while having all sorts of people telling me what to do and why I should move on from where I came. And I know that the military brat turned military member is not entirely original. I have met dozens since I joined a dozen years ago.

And with this, I know that my story is not entirely unique. I could mention more about my time in the country of Turkey when my mother and I had to evacuate due to terrorist threats, or that even more interesting time that Boyz II Men came to shoot a music video in the White Sands of New Mexico when we were station at Holloman AFB. But, I think the idea that those of us who were military children will always lack an idea of “home,” even if some end up in my state of being where we have some sort of place that we can call home, because maybe we were born there. We still don’t quite understand this idea of “home,” but we can have something to call our own if we want to.

My real trials and tribulations come when I think about my own children. Two of my children were born in Rapid City, South Dakota. I constantly have to tell them that this is not of any real importance, the idea of where you are born. I go with the “you are who you are” or “home is where the heart is” or something equally as corny and disconcerting. I’m not sure if they buy it. I know I wouldn’t. But, it’s the best I can do. My third child was born in Spokane, Washington, so it makes it a bit easier to describe “home.”

I don’t really understand what it means to be a military brat, or even what it means to raise a military brat. It is a complex and disconcerting way of life, but I do believe it builds a certain character that is unlike most children. I certainly believe the psychological effects have to be astonishing to most scholars. It can make us stronger and weaker all at the same time. I truly believe that most military children are ready for anything, at a moments notice. Just as their parents are sure to understand.

So, as a man who grew up as a military child, and is raising 3 military children, but also sort of “grew up” in the civilian sector, I can definitely understand the complexities of this way of life. And with that, I feel as though the idea of “home” is by the far one of the greatest concerns affecting the lives of our military children. But, hey, no one can deny that they are some of the toughest people on the planet. They didn’t sign up for this, but the endure it with a sense of pride and “we can do it” attitude that this courageous and admirable. There are no children like military children. No contest. They make their own “home.”

Scot Steenson

I really don’t know where to start, but I’ll try to keep it short. All I can say is that my life has been one hell of a journey. One fucking adventure after another. Initially groomed as an Air Force brat, I transitioned to a contractors kid after my father retired from the Air Force. From my birth in Japan until I graduated high school in Turkey, I have traveled to many incredible parts of the world and met many fascinating human beings. Seen shit and did shit. An absolutely fascinating lifestyle.

Now I sit here at the tender age of forty… Two wonderful children, a failed marriage and on my third career. I constantly feel caught between two different worlds. The contrasts have been reason for my success and reason for my failure. Growing up with a unique lifestyle. Growing old in a more commonplace manner.

Traveling to over twenty five countries, living in three countries, traveling to forty seven states, living in six states… How does one claim identity? Maybe not having an identity is my identity. Can one be lost and found at the same time? I think so. It can be frustrating at times. When people seek conversation or friendship, it’s usually based on common grounds. But, I have almost nothing in common with the common American. Most of my fellow Americans, in my experience, aren’t concerned about the world beyond our walls. American football? Fixing up old cars? Watching reruns of the Jeffersons? Sorry, I didn’t grow up with any of that. How about we talk about Ottoman culture and it’s impact on the world? What’s Ottoman culture? Oh, well, nevermind. Lets just talk about the weather… I struggle to fit in, I struggle to be different.

Friendship is odd for me when I do find people I can relate with on some plane. Don’t get too close Scot, you never now when they will leave. Don’t get too close Scot, you never know when you will leave them. Ultimately, I find it rather sad. I don’t allow myself to get close to anyone and I don’t allow anyone to get too close to me. What’s to share when you can’t share souls?

Turkey was by far the most amazing time in my life it was intoxicating. The Turks were beautiful. The land was beautiful. Turkey was beautiful. During my time in Turkey I sought out as many experiences as I could. I learned the language fairly well and tried to meet locals. Maybe I’m wrong, but I felt my fellow classmates didn’t want to meet the locals. Our parties and trips never involved local Turks. This was strange for me to a degree. I had one life with my international friends, then I had my other life with my local Turkish friends. Many people lost out on meeting people from a fascinating culture.

One great gift I’ve received from my upbringing is the ability to ask “why.” I’m not religious because of the questions brought up while living overseas. I’m extremely patriotic because of the questions I asked myself while living overseas. It’s difficult to form solid opinions at times because I can see things from so many angles thanks to my upbringing.

William Clarke

USAF Brat! Yes I Am!

I was born into the United States Air Force in November of 1961. The base was Hamilton AFB. The location was across the bay of San Fransico. My memories that I were to recall was a few years later in the mid 1960’s. Being a little beyond 50 some of this memories are fading a little and that maybe expected.

Being a “military brat” from my perspective looking back as I recall is that I never really had “friends” like “civilian” kids did. We like all military families would move around the country and parts of the world. Here’s the Clarke family in order. I was born at Hamilton AFB. Then were moved somewhere my dad got his collage degree at the University of Omaha. Then we went to Lackland AFB where dad went OCS where he was a “Mustang”.

From Lakeland AFB we went to Blytheville AFB. My brother was born there in 1963. Then onto Kessler AFB. We were there for a year or two then dad got orders the Clark AFB , Republic of the Philippines. During this time I entered first grade I think. This is when I was with my fellow brats like this and not know we had things in common. Don’t forget the country was going through civil rights time yet as I recall my “friends” were different colors and I did not care. We were all the same as kids.

After leaving Clark dad had orders back to Keesler AFB. My memories as I recall were a few things. I recall the segregated south off base. Once again I had many “friends” of all shades. Living in the South as I recall was an interesting time. We were there when Mississippi was burning. I recall mom being really nervous during the time of the civil rights advocates being murdered. My mom was nervous this time
and now I know why.

Then in the late 60’s we moved to Altus AFB. We were there until 1972 I think. I was the longest place we stayed at till then. I remember going to school and having many “friends” in school. I remember all the tornado drills at school since we lived in tornado country. That was fun time looking back.

Then the Clarke family would go to the final duty station(s) in Washington D.C kind of. Dad would be stationed all over the Virginia, D.C area. I don’t think he had a office in Maryland with the exception of Bolling AFB. The Clarke family would live in Northern Virgina better known as Chantilly. We lived in two new housing developments called Greenbriar and Brookfield just outside of Washington DC.

Being in “military schools” where things were normal and coming into the public school system was looking back a great challenge. Everyone was caucasian. At the time I did not make much of it until years later. When I was going to Greenbriar West and Brookfield Elementary schools. I once more just had people that I would consider
just “friends” but not “real” friends like civilian kids.

Then after Brookfield Elementary I went to Chantilly Intermediate and spent the 7th to 12 grade there. Those were the formative years for me, I guess. I would be considered a loner not having friends but just “acquaintances” from those years at Chantilly.

Those years though looking back were fun though I felt being a military brat may have had it’s drawbacks even to this day. Not having people my life I can relate to on anything on what was and is going on. Having a true home other then the life of going to place to place and seeing many people. Being a military brat had it great pluses. Making “friends” for a short times then when going to other places making new “friends” right away knowing the “friends” that you meet are in the same boat your in.

To this days I don’t really have “friends” bust just “acquaintances”. My ex-wife would complain all the time why I did not have “friends” because of where I worked. I had to explain to her my upbringing as a military brat that is was really not in my way of life because of my younger days as a military brat.

I think being a military brat we may look things differently because of the environments we lived in. I did not have much even though things as a military brat we were “rich” in seeing new places as an adventure in seeing new place and people. Looking back it was great with all it small problems but that made me stronger today.

Loretta Brown

Wouldn’t know where to start so… will make a long story short “if” possible:

Our 24 year active duty U.S. Army Dad from Anderson, Indiana was a WWII, Korean & Vietnam hero to my family. He met our mom TDY in Athens. Then stationed at bases as follows: My sister and I born in Izmir, brother born in Madrid, Chicago, Ft. Meade, Maryland, Istanbul, Yuma Proving Grounds, Athens (Dad was in Vietnam), Germany, Oakland Army Base, SF Presidio. After he retired he worked another 24+ years civil service for the military, we moved back to Athens for a few years. Oakland Army Base & Alameda Naval Air Station.

Not to gross anyone out but at Oakland Army Base we could smell foulness from the huge warehouses, our Dad waited until we moved off base to tell us those were soldiers from Vietnam, then they were sent to their homes, not enough refrigeration for them all. Sad facts.

Our family bounced around born & raised on bases across the States and Europe. I dated and married Air Force, was in Germany then Edwards AFB in California. My sister also married AF and now lives in Florida.

Although no longer living the military life. It doesn’t just go away, I have so many memories I hold dear to my heart, met friends around the world and kept them.

When stationed overseas, the joy of entering the bases was a fantastic feeling got our hearts pumping to see the water tower, guards at gate, American flag & green grass. I called it mini-America. Stars & Stripes were our hangout for comic books. Although we were never wealthy, we were rich with experience of different languages, cultures and appreciation for people from all over.

Lost our Dad Ken and baby brother Kenny 2 years ago. Although civilians, our Mom, sister and I still feel like we served with our Dad. We come from a family who are very proud US Army Brats and Americans!

Loretta_Brown2

Patrick Mayock

Went to 4 HS. in 4 yrs. Traveled around the country pouring specialty concrete. So many things to tell. Separation anxiety is not in my bag. That surprise’s people. Had a long bout with drugs. A few stories there, (I’m 55 now), and all the things my father showed me, (he was NCOIC as long as I can remember). Breaks my heart to see how veterans are treated now. I have a lot of opinions there. My father’s wisdom and voice are as natural to me as air. Wish the politics were even close to common sense both personally and application that he had. When bored as a kid in the Philippines, (lived there over 9 yrs.), we would walk the perimeter fence and find all kinds of WWII stuff. Explored caves, went to Corregidor, dived near wrecked planes. My life is not going as well as most, I blame being an Air Force brat. I see the envy from my friends, but that is not important! Just not rooted the same as my peers. I saw some incredible things, did some interesting things. Haven’t really sat down and dwelled on it.

Patricia Self

We were really lucky as a family, because we went to Japan in 1953 and Germany in 1960. My dad was sent to Korea in 1952 and we moved to Riverside, CA to be close to March AFB. When hostilities ended, he was assigned to FEAF in Tokyo and we boarded the E.D. Patrick to cross the Pacific and join him. My mom, sister, brother, and I went to Fort Mason while we waited for the process to begin. We’d all had our shots (so many) and immunizations. My mom came down with the ‘flu and there I was, age 9, with siblings 3 and 1. Off we went to find a meal, three times a day. Finally, it was time to board the ship. My mom was a little better, but that soon changed as we went under the Golden Gate Bridge and out into the ocean. Seasick? Oh, yes, all of us! My mom had been an Army RN in WWII and sailed both Atlantic and Pacific, but I think having had the flu weakened her system. Still, the day the ship docked in Yokohama was one of great happiness for all of us.

Off-base housing was “private rental,” and we lived in a large home owned by a Tokyo banker and his family. One wing was ours, with a private garden. Tatami mats in every room, a kitchen that I loved but was a nightmare for my mom and Sumiko, our maid. Water was obtained from huge bottles of purified origin. School (at Washington Heights) was reached via bus, which arrived each day at the bottom of a long hill beside our house. One day while waiting at the bus stop, I heard a scream that echoed in the air around us. When I returned from school that day, I discovered that Sumiko had caught her hand in the wringer of our quartermaster washing machine.

After Japan, it was Northern Virginia while my dad was at the Pentagon. And then, off to Wiesbaden where he was at USAFE. It was my junior year in high school, 1960, and HH Arnold High School (now Wiesbaden High School) was located in the Hainerberg housing area. The BX was also there, as well as the Taunus theater (where our graduation was held). We were there four years, and I went to the U of MD at Munich, where I lived in a dorm. Back to Wiesbaden, where I married after a year or so.

My then-husband couldn’t wait to be ex-Air Force, although I’d envisioned life as an Air Force wife, traveling forever. That didn’t happen, but all my ex-husbands were prior service, and I guess that counts for something! Instead, I travel by auto, whenever I can. My last airplane ride was to and from Hawai’i, and all the fun has gone out of traveling in the air. Awful seats, nothing in the way of “service,” and has anybody ever had to change flights and found the necessary boarding gates to be close together? My personal worst is DFW, where it is possible to transit and still be in time for boarding the next flight, but the last time I had to do it I was so happy that I was healthy and nimble!

Barbara Montes

To be honest, being an Air Force brat was a lonely, confusing existence for me. My father was gone for long stretches of time and when he was home I felt like there was a stranger in our house. This was during the late 1950’s through about 1972, we didn’t have easy ways of staying in touch, so it was harder as a child to maintain that connection. Plus, we moved every 3 or 4 years and it felt like we never were “home,” always living out of boxes, always the “new kid” in school. I’ve never really known how to respond when someone asks me “where are you from? I’m from nowhere and everywhere. An answer only another “brat” understands.