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John B. Chandler | all galleries >> Galleries >> 16 Photos With A Story > Jumper
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They were after us in the mid ’50s, and they got us both.

When one is a teenager some of us do some silly, dumb, and crazy things. I was one of those. Below is an example.

My life-long pal, Dr. George L. Vitek, and I wanted to join the navy when we were in high school. Why you might ask. Well, you see, my dad was in the navy during WW II, and his uniform was in a closet in my house. George and I discovered his uniform and liked the looks of it, and thought we’d look cool in a navy uniform. Plus, we like the idea of sailing the high seas on a big ship and having a girl in every port. We even like the idea of hearing over the ship’s loudspeaker, “Now here this. Now here this” and “The smoking light is now on,” that we had heard in some war movie we saw at the Gateway Theater on E. Lancaster in Ft. Worth.

So we decided we’d join the Navy Reserve and made the short trip From Ft. Worth to Grand Prairie where they had a navel airbase and recruiting center. We went in to join, but there was one small problem. We were 17, and you had to be 18, or get your parent's permission. So we left and were going to talk to our parents about it.

But alas, right next to the naval base was an air force base. On the side of one of the buildings near the highway was panted a giant sign that said, “Training Pays,” and had big, blue Master Sergeant stripes painted under the Training Pays. So we decided to check it out. Why not? We were just messing around anyway.

We went into the recruiting office and talked to Sgt. Moncrieff. Since we needed to get our parent's permission, the Sgt. suggested that he come to our house and talk to our parents and us at the same time. There we were, me, George, both of our parents, and Sgt. Moncrieff. A small living room full of people, sitting on every chair we could find.

He was a really good salesman. I hope after he retired that he went into the insurance business. He could have made a fortune. Well, you know what happened. We joined the Air Force Reserve.

I attended reserve meetings one weekend a month at the airbase. That went on until I graduated high school and moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas. I transferred to a unit in Austin, which happened to be an Air Force pararescue unit.

A pararescue unit’s mission is to rescue downed pilots and crew of any downed aircraft anywhere in the world. To accomplish the mission it required going to paratrooper jump school and getting certified that you know how to jump out an airplane. When you were certified and assigned to a para-rescue unite you were known as a “Jumper.”

That’s how I lucked into having that little statue of a “Jumper.”

Note: This all happened about 60 years ago and my memory is just a little fuzzy so I might have some of the details wrong, but the story in general is true. Writers call that "poetic license." If I have any misstatements, chalk it up to that, as an effort to make the story better.

I’m a lucky guy, huh? Who knows what would have happened to me if I didn't have a girlfriend who was going to college, and I’d gone on active duty instead of going to college.

Oh, I probaly would have ended up retired and living in Port Aransas, in a little house on stilts overlooking the ocean. And I'd probly have two faded tattoos, on one sholder would be in a fancy banner that said, "Death before dishonor" and the on the other shoulder ther would be "Mom," with a big faded red heart with an arrow through it. And I may have a pet pytohon and a parrot that screamed cuss words - in English and Spanish.

The End

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