By lex, on August 21st, 2008
When I was a plebe (he said, and across the fleet, eyeballs roll), CAPT Dick Stratton spoke to my class about his experience as an aviator, POW and senior officer. One of his anecdotes struck me at the time as peculiar.
He was talking about the qualities that go into making a good wingman, and said, “If I go into the clouds and fly into a mountain on the other side, the last thing I want to see as I look to my right is my wingman flying into the same mountain right beside me.” It took years for that story to make any kind of sense – what a senseless waste of two aircraft, two lives. But his story had to do with unblinking determination and personal commitment, a willingness to throw oneself fully into the effort, even in the face of grave danger. It’s about trust and love to the point of self-abnegation.
Ed “Too Tall” Freeman was a good wingman, and another hero who has walked into the clearing at the end of the path:
One unexpected visitor offered a very personal thank you to Freeman, a veteran of three wars and recipient of the highest military award – the Congressional Medal of Honor – for his actions on Nov. 14, 1965, at Landing Zone X-Ray, Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam.
“A guy came into the hospital and said, ‘You don’t know me, but I was one of those people you hauled out of the X-Ray,’” said Mike Freeman, 54, one of Ed’s two sons. “He said, ‘Thanks for my life.’ ”
Freeman died Wednesday.
His Medal of Honor citation credits him with helping save 30 seriously wounded soldiers in 14 separate rescue missions in an unarmed helicopter.
See you at Fiddler’s Green, Too Tall. First round’s on me.