I have just returned from Vegas where I spent five days living in the past. In 1974, I was dropped into the aviation world and I spent the next 40 years flying around the world with some of the most incredible men I have met before or since. I learned World War II history from men who had fought it. One was an original American War hero. He walked across the greater part of Europe after a battle and eluding the enemy, he made his way to Poland where he stowed away on a cargo vessel and made it home. He went on tour to sell war bonds. Another flew England’s heavy bomber, the Lancaster, on raids over Germany and helped bomb the Nazis into submission. He threw my text book knowledge of the events of that conflict away and gave me God’s truth from the English point of view.
The stories in Vegas went on and on. I listened intently as eighty year old men poured out their personal history from the viewpoint of aged and matured brains. I felt such respect and honor to have been able to be a small part of it all. I am the luckiest person I know. Life has beaten me up since those days. But when I die, I’ll pause at the pearly gates and tell St. Peter the best story he has ever heard.
Part of flying is spent in the air for long hours with not a lot to do. In those days, on our airplane, it would take over 8 hours to fly from England to Saudia Arabia. Everybody had a book and they all read something different. The seed for me being a writer was planted in those days. One of the problems I have today is taking a Michener book, a Hemingway book, a Maugham book that inspired me in those days and translating what I have to say into a style that today’s readers would pick up and read. The media is so different. It’s a real challenge. Lucky for me, I grew to manhood in an environment where the people who surrounded me faced down and defeated so much greater challenges. You just do the best you can.