Pete and I pause to recall and smile over a memory. We were squadron pilots in VMF 323 based at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California from 1958 to 1960. We flew the Mach 1.6 (1000 miles per hour) Chance Vought F8U-2 single seat fighter-interceptor jet. We completed week-long carrier qualification landings and takeoffs aboard the USS Ariskonay CV34; trained constantly in order to be ready at any time for any mission; and deployed on several tactical missions and inter-squadron competitions out of Yuma, Arizona.
We both spent some eight years on active and reserve military service in the Marine Corps, during a fortunate period of peace after the Korean War and before the onset of VietNam. Pete went on to become an airline Captain with United Airlines, ending up flying B747-400s on long-distance trans-Pacific schedules. I, an aero engineer, went to work at Boeing in Seattle, supporting sales of commercial jets; eventually formed my own transportation consulting business.
We, and several of our U.S. Marine comrades have kept in touch over the decades, gone to reunions, and annually celebrated the Marine Corps Birthday Dinners. ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’: As President Reagan once said: “Some people spend a lifetime worrying if they made a difference---the Marines don’t have that problem.”