$12.95 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781457503665
116 pages
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Excerpt from the Book

PART ONE: America’s Team!

“Standby hack, let’s hack now.” Russ Quinn had just given me my 32-second warning, and I counted to myself, one, two, and then I pressed my stopwatch and watched the second hand begin to sweep. I pushed the throttle on my beautiful red, white, and blue F- 16 forward slightly and lowered the nose gently while pulling her into a slow left arc. I had done this hundreds of times in practice, and now it was showtime. “Ninety to the line,” came Russ’s next command. I breathed deeply on my oxygen mask and checked my stopwatch and my orientation to the show line. I was exactly 10 seconds into the maneuver and precisely 90 degrees to the line (meaning my jet was perpendicular to the show line just as we had practiced). That gave me 20 seconds to get to my next checkpoint. I pushed the throttle forward a bit further, felt the acceleration, and continued to pull my fighter through her left turn; now the adrenaline began to pulse. My breathing quickened ever so slightly as I searched for my references on the ground, watched my airspeed build, and waited for Russ’s next call. I was now at 125 feet above the ground, 425 knots, accelerating. “Knife-edge,” came the radio call from Russ.

“Knife-edge,” I yelled into my oxygen mask, indicating that I was on time and exactly two miles away from show center. I pushed the throttle to full military power, accelerated to 475 knots, and looked for Russ.

“Eight thousand…smoke,” came Russ’s call. I flicked the smoke switch on with my left thumb.

“Six Tally,” I said, indicating that I saw Russ and was now responsible for ensuring at more than 1000 miles per hour of closure rate that I would miss him.

Russ called, “Six thousand,” and my check point lined up. I pulled the power back to maintain 475 knots, stacked slightly high to obtain the perfect optical picture for the crowd. Russ called, “Ready, hit it,” and I banked my fighter left with full stick force toward his in a 90-degree bank while simultaneously stepping on the right rudder. “Roll out,” came the call, and I with equal force rolled back right to wings level while simultaneously shutting off my smoke and beginning a smooth pull to 22.5 degrees nose high. I pushed gently to stop the climb, executed a 270- degree roll to the right, and pulled to clear the show line.

“Five’s clear, six’s clear.” We had just completed the opposing knife edge pass; I was living my dream!

Family

I was born in rural America, in a small farming community nestled between the beautiful Catskill Mountains and the Berkshire Hills, East Chatham, New York. Our town had no more than 500 people and no stoplights. We were by all definitions a “hick town” in today’s vernacular. I absolutely loved it. My best friend was my cousin Joe. We were together almost every moment of every day growing up, including planned days off from school with sore throats that miraculously cleared up during the morning so we could play in the afternoon.

Small-town America today still holds dear many of the elements that our country was founded on. Family and faith are still more important than the size of one’s home or the type of car one drives. Everyone is willing to help a neighbor, because every neighbor is essentially a family member.

My mom and dad loved us. My mom worked tirelessly around the house, keeping all four of us kids clean and fed and feeling secure in our family. I remember my mom’s seemingly endless routine of washing and hanging clothes outside, fixing meals, doing dishes, and helping four children do all we needed to do to get ready for school. She did almost all of those tasks alone, as was the “standard” for stay-at-home moms in the ’60s.

My father was a strict man who lost his own mother when he was twelve. He was not overtly affectionate with us, but he displayed his affection for me through observing my participation in sports and always being there for those events. When I was a sophomore, our JV baseball team played for the division title at 3 PM on a work day in Jamestown, New York, some 60 miles from home. There were only one or two dads in the stands as we won that title, and Paul Modleski, my dad, was one of them.