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Thread: Losing more friends as we get older

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Red Feather Lakes, CO

    Losing more friends as we get older

    The other day I was thinking about all the old friends that have passed in the last twenty years.
    First it was Ray. He was a aircraft crew chief with a lots of fire in his butt. We were brutally honest with each other as friends. One time I became so angry with him that it was everything that I could do to restrain myself from beating him senseless. If it had been anyone else I would not have restrained myself. An hour later we talked about it and he apologized. It was like nothing had ever happened from that point on. But it had. It was one little building block in our friendship. We, once more, established that our friendship was galvanized regardless of disagreements. We reinforced that we could disagree and it didn't matter. We were friends and that was the most important part of the relationship. At times we acted as a conscience for each other. There aren't many relationships where a person can walk up and bluntly tell another person they are wrong and talk about it without resentment or anger.
    Ray died of ALS in 2001.

    Second is Mike. Mike was the best helicopter pilot I have ever seen. If it had blades on it he could fly it with a natural skill that is inborn. He was a crusty Vietnam Vet that was prone to be bluntly honest also. He wasn't your normal pilot. He was tall, smoked like a chimney and could run all day. He finally quit smoking after several attempts. He would come outside, where the smokers would congregate, and ask me for a cigarette. I would tell him that I didn't feel good about giving him a cigarette and he would say, "You are going to feel a lot worse if you don't." He was a big guy and I am not afraid of most men but I didn't really feel like wrestling with a guy that big. He lacked that learned grace and polish that officers seem to cultivate. If it was a mess Mike would not sugar coat it. It didn't matter who was present. If he thought it was a bad idea he would say so. He had more hours in the seat than anyone else did so any smart person would take what he said and really think about it. He was teaching a student from Jordan how to fly with low engine power when the student really screwed up. They did something totally unexpected that Mike could not recover control. The result was the helicopter flipped onto it's top. Everyone came out unscathed. Mike was not rattled. He was always very calm and relaxed.
    We had a fire in the mountains, a place called Roxborough. We were called to drop buckets of water the fire. We had five or six UH-1H helicopters working the fire. The pilots I have on my helicopter were Major Flora and Mike. Mike was the Pilot in Command. We got a 20 minute fuel light, which means you have "around" 20 minutes of fuel. It could be 15 minutes or it could be 25 minutes. It was never exactly 20 minutes of fuel. He decided to dump two more loads of water then head back to the refueling point. We dropped two more bucket loads and headed back. While Mike was hovering into place at the refueling point we heard the engine RPM start to quickly wind down and the aircraft started to increase out downward speed. Mike pulled up on the collective (it is a control lever to increase pitch to the blades) to slow our descent. We bounced a little bit but not real hard. After we got on the ground and they went through all the switched to shut everything down Mike exclaimed, "We just had an engine failure." I replied, "Yeah, kinda funny how that happens when you run out of gas." We spent a week trouble shooting and testing that engine to prove that when you run out of gas it quits. Me and Ray spent another two days testing the 20 minute fuel light system. I used that for years as an excuse to rib ole Mikey. I sure miss him.
    Mikey died of cancer in 2007. They named the new facility after Mike. The last thing we talked about was how he was going to kick my butt when I got back from Iraq. I said, "That would be a good thing." We both knew it was the last time we would ever talk.

    We hired a new instructor. I didn't know him very well but I knew his face and name. We soon were talking about family, pop up campers and our faith. Dave was a real nice guy. I would joke with him sometimes that we should have a whiskey together. Dave didn't drink. He would just give me a smile that said, "That isn't gonna happen." He was always smiling and had a positive attitude. He was a great mentor for the younger pilots. He had a way of explaining what they did wrong and how to do it right without making them feel degraded but so they could understand what they could do better. I had the privilege of knowing Dave for about 8 years before I retired. He was a good man.

    Last week I got an email from another pilot that was an instructor where I worked. She told me about one of our pilots that had deployed with my old unit. They went to Afghanistan this time around. It is a CH-47 helicopter unit. They are the big ones that look like two palm trees fighting in a dumpster.
    In the email Trish tells me:
    I just got an email from Randy and found out Dave was one of the pilots in the Chinook Seal Team crash. That really saddened my heart!
    I know it was devastating to Trish. They used to work in the same office. They were real close.
    Life just sucks sometimes. How come it is always the good ones and not the ones that just waste oxygen?
    It wasn't a party unless it involved fire, an ATV, a chain saw and whiskey.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Independence MO
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rice View Post
    Life just sucks sometimes. How come it is always the good ones and not the ones that just waste oxygen?

    Because your smart enough to get to know the good ones, and learn to ignore the rest.

    Granted, I am younger then some of the folks here, but I learned young. Accidents, heart attacks, cancer, murder, etc. Known too many. The other day brain cancer came up, and I stopped counting lost friends at 20 (there were more).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Wow, what can I say. So sorry for the families and friends.

    I know what you mean Mark. It really stinks.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM
    Man, as soon as I saw CH-47 I knew where the story was headed. Very sorry to see this Mark. Condolences to all affected.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Vancouver Island, Courtenay/Comox Valley, British Columbia
    I feel for you Mark, and I feel the same way. We just lost a close friend last week. It strikes me as odd sometimes to have reached an age when I see more and more deaths of people near my age. I'm 49, but inside I still feel like I did when I was 29. I watch all these people aging around me, and it's hard for me to comprehend that I'm aging just like them. I try to teach my kids that life is about change. That none of us get out of this world alive, so it's important to take pleasure in little things every day. That you should tell your dear ones that you love them all the time because you never know....and you don't want to have regrets for things left unsaid....
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    North West Indiana
    Yep, what Randal and Cynthia said. I lost one yesterday, she pulled out in front of a pickup, never knew what hit her (I hope).

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Outside the beltway
    I am getting a number of missions coming across my desk via email about the deaths of the servicemen, I didn't realize that by joining the Patriot Guard I would be seeing so much death. There are 5 funerals this next week of Marines who died last week in that crash. I am going to try to make as many as I can down at Arlington.
    I dream a lot. I do more painting when I'm not painting. It's in the subconscious.
    ::: Andrew Wyeth :::

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    I guess Mark its part of the phase of life we in. I heard about one this week here in Canada. A guy who was one of the mainstay of a network i belong to. He never said anything about his personal health battle, next thing we hear he has passed and he is pretty young guy and always looked very healthy.

    It dont get easier, I think Cynthia said it best we gotta enjoy life everyday as it comes.

    Talking to my Dad 94 the other day, he never expected to be around at this age. He always believed 3 score and 10 was gonna be his lot.

    Now he says the worst part is being alone. All his buddies have passed on. All his old shipmates he knew even old business friends. What upsets him is now he cannot make it to the services. On a lighter note he writes to the Queen. She is of a similar age and he reckons she must have the same problem. With him having met her numerous times he reckons they good buddies. We just laugh when he says that. His secret in my view is keeping busy. He is always saying he does not have enough time in the day to get what he wants done done.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Southeast Pa
    Thankfully the memory's last....beyond the pain....

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    That is a tough loss. And it is a tough loss to all of America.
    I live in a retirement community and have since my early 30s. I have seen many friends pass on. Usually I am able to be philosophic about their passing but from time to time things pile up and get real down when another loss happens. While we still have quite a few WWII vets around their numbers are significantly less than just a few years ago.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

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