Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Take the Challenge! The Wind Beneath my Wings

My sister wrote a very special post on her blog Everyday is a Holledayz. My BIL Rick found a letter that was written about our Dad by a student from Auburn University. This was a young man who's life was impacted by 'the Colonel's' positive influence when he was the Commandant of the ROTC, more than 20 years ago. I want to share this letter with all of you~ indulge me.
Posted in the Warbird Informational Exchange:
I was privileged to meet and get to know Deke as a student at Auburn in the late 80's. He taught a number of courses in aviation and much of the foundation of what I know today about weather, Air Traffic Control, instrument flying, and how an
officer and pilot should conduct himself, I attribute to him.

Deke was tall and slim and always wore cowboy boots. He had an easy smile, wavy grey hair and the makings of a handlebar moustache that always made me think he could have been a 50's film star. In addition, there are few pilots left who could tell a
story like Deke. As he related this flight or that, his hands would fly about
and his silver USAF pilot wings bracelet would jingle and jangle to emphasize
the tale. Most of us begged to hear more U-2 stories, as he was in the cadre of
pilots who flew with Gary Powers and Rudolph Anderson (lost over Cuba in '62).
No matter the dire outcome, he was always able to weave humility and humor into
the story. I have since read some of these stories repeated in "50 Years of the
U-2" by Chris Pocock, but I will never forget the times I heard them first hand.

As an Auburn senior, I had a few hours of elective time to complete and I was told to report to Deke to learn what I could do to earn the hours. (As an aside, no student ever called him Deke. Despite his easy-going nature, he always said, feel free to call me by my first name ... "Colonel!".) Hoping that I'd be in Air Force pilot training the next year, I asked him if would teach me about instrument flying. His reply was, "No, I won't teach you instruments - you will teach ME instruments". He handed me a few texts and had me devise a multi-week syllabus where I would research a topic and present a lesson to him, one-on-one. Of course, once I was finished talking, Deke would take over and the lesson would really begin.

After I left Auburn, I never saw Deke again. I'd occasionally bump into someone who'd seen him and heard that he'd retired to the beach near Pensacola. One day I was saddened to hear that he'd suffered a fall and was paralyzed. A number of times I said that I'd go look him up to visit and thank him for all his help and encouragement. I sincerely regret that I never made the trip.

We joked during one of my instrument sessions about his legal title of "Aviation Expert" ... as he had been recently asked to appear as a consultant in a court case. I played along and asked for his autograph -- the only paper handy was the cardstock "this hat belongs to" label inside my USAF cadet wheel cap. I slid it out and, on the back, he inscribed "Col Robert E. "Deke" Hall, USAF ret.; Aviation Expert". I will treasure it always.

Blue skies, Deke! You will be missed.
The truly sad part of this is that Dad never saw this letter, he never knew what an impact he made on this young man. I can't help but wonder how many lives he touched in his day to day life, with out expecting anything more than respect and a salute. I can only imagine how these kind words would have lifted him.

This is my sister's challenge...
"So here is the lesson - write a letter to someone in your past who influenced you ....TODAY! Fill it with details that might spark a memory of days forgotten. With your words, paint a picture of a time and place and a life lesson learned. This article did not reach my Dad, but it touched me profoundly!
I hope you take the challenge!"
I am taking the challenge. I am writing a personal letter to a teacher I had many years ago: one who impacted a single parent and an impressive nursing student. I hope that each of you will take up the challenge in the same way.
A teacher, a preacher, or a friend.

Let them know that they were the wind beneath your wings.
Will y'all take the challenge?


Char said...

that is a good challenge. i think i might try it.

South Bound said...

Sandi, what a great letter about your dad. I knew him in Auburn. He always had words of wisdom, encouragement as well as humor. I repeat some of them to my son and daughters even now. Thanks

Cora said...

Super idea.....
I loved reading this letter. You could tell it was from his heart and that your Dad really had an impact on him.
I'm sure it brought tears of joy to you. :)

Sandi @the WhistleStop Cafe said...

Char~ do it now!
South Bound~ Thank you so much for leaving a comment. I loved hearing from someone who had known Dad. I'll make sure Holly sees this as well. War Eagle my friend!
Cora~ you are always so sweet... you know the right things to say.

Dar said...

This is a wonderful personal post you have shared. And, I want you to know, Your Dad Knows. It's wonderful that he was such a profound influence on that young man. Thanks again for sharing.
Blessings Be Yours

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