In part one I described a few close calls with death along with some simple lessons derived afterwards.

For those of you who may not have read the first part, I need to warn you this blog may not be for you, if you do not care about finding any meaning for life, and/or don’t care why some people have worse experiences than others. If you have already decided to be a miserable person, simply because you think life is unfair, then I probably have nothing of value to pass on. My answers will be no good to anybody who has solidly locked his or her mind into the notion of life being essentially meaningless, especially if that idea leads you into thinking people’s behavior should be based strictly around getting as much as you can before you die. My search for answers brought about an entirely different conclusion.

Before I get into it too much, I just want to say this isn’t going to be an attempt to convert anybody to some particular religion. I actually don’t have a religion to push, and I rarely go to church. Nonetheless, I do believe in God, but I have no interest in trying to make anybody else believe. Truth is, I seriously don’t care what most people believe. The only soul I feel responsible for saving is my own, and because of that I won’t be making any attempts to guide any of you into heaven.

I also would like to say a good deal of what I resolved for myself might still be useful for non-believers, and, for those of you who have a deep faith already in one particular religion, I’m pretty sure nothing I present here will be incompatible with your previously established beliefs. In essence, I’m trying to make sure there is something here for anybody who actually cares enough to seek new answers to the questions most of us struggle over.

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After my second close call in the helicopter world, in which six men got killed, and I was lucky enough to survive, I had a rather odd experience where I found myself struggling over how real life truly was. I can’t quite explain it, but I had to keep telling myself life felt real even though I couldn’t get over this strange sense it wasn’t real at all. The main problem for me, if life was in fact real, and this truly was the only one we would ever get, was how could anything as complicated as the miracle of life also be so incredibly fragile? I simply couldn’t figure this out. How could, or, why would, such an intricate system as a human being be developed to contain something as easily destroyed as life?

I mean, just look at it. The human body is an amazing machine consisting of a wide variety of smaller machines, and the process behind our creation, whatever it may have been, required nothing short of a seemingly endless series of miracles to even accomplish. No matter how advanced we tell ourselves we are, mankind still hasn’t been able to create anything anywhere near as elaborate, let alone adequately explain how it came to be. Therefore, our theories of fantastic cosmic forces accidentally coming together to produce the wonder of life are just fine for explaining why we exist at all, and the theory of evolution helps explain how life-forms adapted to their environment and grew stronger, but as satisfying as these two ideas may be for people who only seek scientific explanations, stopping the search for answers at that point also prevents us from considering a much larger question. Is there any explanation out there for why the same cosmic forces necessary for creating us and making us stronger are also responsible for causing us to slowly deteriorate and die?

Please, take some time to think about that little paradox. Were it not for that unexplained anomaly we might very well have evolved to god status ourselves by now. After all, that’s the only possible outcome we could rationally expect to occur if we truly believed the evolution process was constantly changing us to better survive. Naturally, one would then have to wonder why no evidence has yet been brought forth indicating there is a chance eternal life may actually exist on earth some day.

Personally, I think it’s because most of us already understand it isn’t very realistic. The chances of evolution eventually changing the human body enough to survive the constant bombardment of neutrinos, and thus end up giving us a fighting chance at living forever, are extremely remote, so it’s probably not a good idea to focus our attention towards any such spectacularly unfeasible theories. Instead, let’s deal with the one big question left over.

Could there possibly be a deliberate reason life as we know it is only temporary?

This is what was bugging me. Whether you believe life came from God, the Great Earth Mother, or a stunning confluence of elements in the Universe randomly colliding, you can’t escape the fact the creation of life is such a marvel it defies logic for it also to be so easily snuffed out. Accident of nature or not, the sheer effort required to create something as sophisticated as intelligent life should have resulted in a much sturdier life-form.

Now, I can’t speak for how scientists deal with this apparent contradiction in acceptable theories, but as for me I finally decided there had to be a reason for human life, and with that reason it logically followed there must be something we should be able to gain from the experience. Furthermore, this deduction also made me realize there was very little chance of gaining anything of value from the experience if we mortals came into being with the knowledge we were going to live forever.

The struggle for survival is pretty much the only reason mankind has made any advancements at all. At our core we humans are essentially self-centered, and everything we do is based upon this basic selfishness, so having eternal life on this planet would not have been to our advantage. All it would have done is remove our biggest worry, and after that we would have had no interest in doing anything other than find better ways to goof-off. Without the existence of death there would never be any religions formed, no philosophies developed for how to live your life, and no standards set for how to get along with other people.

Sure, leftists, communists and others inclined to lean towards atheism believe it would have been a good thing if no religions had ever been formed, but even they feel a need to set standards for how people should live their lives. You don’t need to believe there is a divine reason behind life to understand humans in mortal form are naturally going to care more about other people’s behavior than immortal humans ever would. Life is only precious when it has an expiration date, and the sad truth is you always care more about the things you believe are precious. As soon as you understand that little fact, it isn’t hard to see the choices you have to make when you believe life is precious probably wouldn’t even seem significant enough to worry about if you knew you were going to live forever. Basically, I came to the conclusion we could live a million years without having anything serious to worry about, and we still wouldn’t gain as much from the experience as we do now with our "Three score years and ten".

Fine. That helped me to deal with why life was temporary, but it still left some questions. Just what are we expected to learn in the few years we are given? Is there something each of us is expected to do in our lives, or is it good enough just to get through it without doing anything too evil? Most importantly of all, is there any reason for some folks to be spared when others are not?

I can’t say I figured out all the answers, but I was able to figure out enough to stop stressing over them. That last question is the one I believe I did the best job on, but I must confess it was a real problem for me. The human ego is such I had to be careful about letting myself start thinking I had been important enough to be saved. This was made all the harder by the fact the first thing most people ever said after hearing a few of these stories was, "You must have been spared for a reason." I have come to the conclusion such thoughts are extremely dangerous – not the least because Hitler also believed he was being spared for a reason after he survived a few attempts on his life -and for that reason I stopped telling people these stories.

I’m only telling them now because I think the stories themselves are more important than I personally am, and, even then, the stories only have value as a way to explain the issues I resolved for myself. Other than that I have never found a purpose for having been spared, and I’m too old to start developing feelings of grandeur now. Blah! I’m perfectly happy to be a nobody, and I have no use for trying to seek fame, glory, or any other insubstantial personal recognition. That is why I do not write under my real name, and I try to keep myself so unobtrusive you could even read this while sitting next to me on an airplane without ever finding out I was the guy who wrote it.

Aside from which, I was raised before the ignorant ‘self-esteem’ concept was developed, so my values are firmly centered around "Take your lumps like a man" and "Don’t toot your own horn". Sure, I would like to pass on my lessons, but I have no interest in getting people to pay attention to those lessons by indulging in such childish methods as whining or boasting. You may be tempted to think I am using these methods in a few places, mostly because I will neither be sugar-coating the facts nor playing down my role, but I swear I’ll only be telling things the way they actually occurred. There will be no bitterness or self-aggrandizement behind my words.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression I started coming to these conclusions after only experiencing the incidents I have so far described. No, it took a long time to work this out, and I was struggling with a lot more than just having survived a couple times. There were other events soon to occur, plus several in my past I haven’t mentioned yet, and I found myself having to decide if I should let these events affect me the same way they were affecting others. Before I could get too deeply into philosophical reasons behind life, and the seemingly random way people were chosen to survive or not, I had to make decisions on what I should do as far as continuing to risk my life in this particular job went.

This was a rather bizarre dilemna because being a mechanic -first, last and always- meant I was in a job nobody seriously considered to be dangerous. Even worse, from a personal perspective, was the fact I spent most my time in this career field being treated as if I was an insignificant dirt-bag compared to the guys whose jobs were primarily centered around flying. It didn’t matter if I actually received extra pay for flying, and had a legitimate reason to go along wherever my helicopter was sent, I was still treated as an intruder on many flights.

I kid you not, I would sometimes be the only mechanic on a single ship mission flying cross-country where we would have to RON (Remain Over Night) at a base between home station and final destination, and when the flight crew radioed ahead to have a base-taxi meet us at the helicopter, it didn’t include me. The ‘real’ flight crew members would load all their bags into the taxi, and then, before they left, they would hand me a map of the base so I could find my way to the bus stop. The base taxi didn’t cost anything, so there was no good reason I couldn’t have used one myself when I was done tying down the rotor blades and closing up the helicopter, but such amenities were not afforded to a mere mechanic – even if he was on flight status. In fairness, I have to say not every flight crew did this to me, but enough crews found ways such as this to get it across they had no use for flying mechanics, and it caused me to stay away from flight crew as much as possible.

I suppose it’s good thing, on the whole, because, when they did die, I didn’t have any personal reason to mourn for too many of them. I never went so far as to rejoice over anybody being killed, but I did sympathize a bit on the occasions when I’d hear people say they wished some particular jerk of a flight crew member could have been killed instead of the one guy they actually liked who did get killed. It seems callous, I suppose, but it was a feeling I’m afraid I understood. I didn’t indulge in making any such wishes myself, however, because it seemed mighty close to wishing I could have had the power to decide who should live or not. I can’t help thinking such thoughts can lead to a caustic erosion upon your soul.

At any rate, a little less than a month after my second close call, I narrowly missed being the only one killed in another crash. On this occasion I had spent more than five hours in the air sitting in one seat, and an hour or so later the tail gearbox broke off, taking with it the entire tail rotor assembly. Had I remained in that seat, it is more than likely I would have been killed. The copter crashed onto a dead tree, and that tree ripped through the floor right where my legs used to be.

That may not sound so bad, but the seat restraints we have to wear are attached to the sturdy bulkheads on the airframe, so my body would have been held in place while my legs were being forced upwards. A broken back, or legs torn off, were two probable outcomes from this, so at the very least I could have been permanently disabled.

Yes, I had been extremely lucky, but that didn’t mean I was totally off the hook. The fact I had been onboard this helicopter that day led to me being called in for an official inquiry some while later, and that seemed a bit odd because I had only been asked a few informal questions after the first big crash. As far as I knew, no inquiry had been formed after that one, and I still don’t know if any of the flight crew were also called for the same inquiry I had to face. The only other person I know who also had to testify was another mechanic, and he hadn’t even done any flying.

The military has many aspects about it similar to the goofy things you find in other bureaucratic government agencies, so I began to worry some pencil-necked geek in a back-office somewhere was going to try making a name for himself by officially putting the blame for the crash on maintenance. I might not have been too concerned about that except this particular inquiry was being treated as if it was more important than what you might normally expect. They brought in an officer from another base to do the questioning, and my testimony was going to be done on Christmas Eve. That meant this poor guy would have to spend his holiday away from his family because the entire process wouldn’t be completed for several days. It hardly seemed possible they would have done that to him unless they’d honestly thought the inquiry too critical to hold off.

I suspected having my name on two flight manifests for helicopter crashes so close together might also mean they were going to try suggesting I was somehow responsible for both events, and I wasn’t too happy with that idea. It was completely impossible for one person to have created the sequence of events responsible for even one of these occurrences, but I was painfully aware that wouldn’t matter when the people doing the investigating neither understood maintenance nor the flying of helicopters.

The impression I might be in trouble was bolstered as soon as I reported in. I was told the whole interview would be recorded, and I would be required to sign a sworn statement after it was formerly written up. Then I was immediately read my rights, for the record, and had several warnings given to me about what could be done with my testimony. As scary as that was, however, it was all for nothing. The pencil-necked geeks really had put this inquiry together.

The only thing they were interested in was a piece of paperwork somebody had filled out for an inspection performed on the helicopter a couple months before the crash. I had neither filled out the paperwork nor been involved with the inspection in any way, so my opinion on the matter was pretty much worthless. The guy who performed the inspection had properly filled out the paperwork, using a preprinted code on the form for what type inspection it was, and somebody else had later crossed out that code to ink in a different one. All anybody now wanted to know was who had changed the code.

I told them I didn’t know who had done it, but I was pretty sure it must have been after the paperwork had gotten turned in. There were several people behind desks who were required to review paperwork when it was being processed through one office to another, and I didn’t even know who they all were, so I had no idea which one might have thought changing the code was necessary. I also didn’t care, but I wasn’t stupid enough to say so. I already knew the gearbox had fallen off because all four mounts had broken, and nothing about this inspection could have prevented it, so why focus an entire inquiry upon it?

Sure, somebody made a mistake changing the code, but so what? It was a stupid thing to do, but even if the inspection had been done incorrectly, or not at all, there was nothing about it that could have caused any type gearbox failure at all. Why anybody would make such a fuss over something so insignificant was a total mystery to me.

Incidents such as this inquiry made me realize another thing about the capabilities of the human mind. There does seem to be clear limits on how intelligent we can become, but it doesn’t appear there are any such limits for stupidity. Mankind has an unlimited supply of stupidity, and the worst part is foolishness is incredibly contagious. When President Lincoln made his famous speech "You can fool all of the people some of the time…" he could have just stopped right there. Whether or not you can fool all the people all the time is irrelevant once you realize the ability to fool all the people some of the time is enough to ensure large groups of people can be led into going along with idiotic decisions. I dare say if that were not true people would rarely dread having to deal with mindless government agencies.

Okay, it may seem I have drifted off topic a bit, but the upshot is none of these incidents were making me love this job. My flying slot was a strictly volunteer position, so I easily could have given it up, but I wasn’t altogether certain that was the right thing to do. I had acquired most of my values from reading Louis L’Amour books (A great source, incidentally, if you want to learn how to be a true American), and I found myself trying to decide if my close calls should be treated under the "get back on the horse" philosophy, or if I should start treating all these events as "warning shots" instead.

I’m reasonably certain most folks won’t know what I mean by that, so let me explain. The warning shot philosophy is one I adopted after I realized almost nobody got killed the first time he or she did something stupid. I first noticed it with guys who rode motorcycles. I knew several guys who got killed on motorcycles, and the one thing they had in common was all of them had experienced at least one similar event without being killed before their luck finally ran out. The thing is they seemed to have developed a certain pride in surviving a big crash, or in being able to dodge a few close calls, so, rather than thinking they should start being more careful, they got the idea their survival was because of their skills.

You can apply this to just about any situation. Drunk drivers and people texting usually have a close call or two before they cause a fatality, bicyclists get away with breaking the rules of the road many times before they finally get run over, and crooks usually don’t get caught the first time they commit a crime. For most people it seems getting away with stupid behavior a few times makes them believe they can always get away with it. They actually grow bolder instead of realizing their luck can’t hold up forever.

I have come to believe there is an element of fairness in life causing us to receive a few warning shots when we get too close to the edge. Unfortunately, the warning shots are often ignored. Most of us let our egos take over afterwards instead of listening to our common sense, and, yes, I can speak from personal experience. As a young man I did many stupid things, often involving something being blown up, and I never got the message the first time I had an unpleasant surprise. Same as every other idiot out there, I kept doing the stupid thing until I got injured.

That’s one reason I didn’t initially think too much about it after the uncontrollable helicopter ended up landing safely. I had already survived a number of close calls, including a couple where I hadn’t even done anything stupid (I merely happened to be there when misfortune struck), so at that point in my life I was still arrogant enough to believe I would continue to get away with such events. I know it’s idiotic now, but I actually expected, even if the copter had crashed, I would have managed to survive somehow. Oh well, that’s the power of pride.

It’s our pride leading us to ignore the warnings we are so blessed to receive, and that is why we keep getting too close to the edge. The saying "Pride goeth before a fall" comes from Shakespeare, but long before he wrote it The Book of Proverbs warned us, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." All of which tells us we really should pay more attention to the wisdom of the past.

I’m happy to say by the time I had gotten past my second and third crash events I had evolved enough to be far less arrogant about surviving, but I still had to sort out whether or not I was being given warning shots. One thing’s for sure, many of the regular flight crew members were no longer enamored with their jobs. One guy who’d seen the tail rotor fall off while he was flying on a different helicopter smashed his helmet on the ground as soon as his helicopter landed. He said he’d had enough. Other crew members lost their jobs after they started getting into trouble for drunken behavior downtown, and some got kicked out for doing drugs. Not everybody was handling the pressure by behaving badly (and, in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, I feel obligated to state I observed no such behavior amongst the officers), but quite a few of the enlisted guys were trying to find ways to at least get into other jobs. I could clearly see flying was no longer considered fun.

Therefore, I couldn’t help wondering if these were all signs I should give up my flying slot as well. Before I could make a proper decision, however, I had to take several things into account. There was a lot more involved than just trying to save my skin. It was also possible the right thing to do was to get back on the horse and not let a few unfortunate events change my behavior.

The first thing I had to take into consideration was the fact giving up the flying position didn’t necessarily mean I’d be safer. Sure, I would do a lot less flying, but I wouldn’t be able to completely avoid it. I hadn’t been on flying status during my first close call, and neither had I been on flying status at any point when I’d been in Iceland. I hadn’t even been on flying status the first few times I’d flown on this base. On top of that, this was the second time I had been in this unit, and the first time I’d been here we’d had a crash during Operation Honey Badger where the only person killed had been a mechanic not on flying status. (That event was so shabby I get angry just thinking about how needless his death was, so there is no way I could describe it here without changing the mood of this entire blog. Please forgive me for choosing not to recount it in detail.)

Suffice it to say, there were plenty of ways to get killed when you weren’t on flying status, or, for that matter, even flying at all. A roommate of mine got killed by a freak accident where a rotor blade suddenly flexed downward enough to hit him in the forehead, and I had a flight crew forget I was on top of a helicopter one time when they decided to crank up the rotors.

We’d been running the rotors for a while to check out the operation of a newly installed pump, and after the rotors were shut down I had to go up there and check for leaks. The engines were left running, and while I was opening panels and looking things over, the crew was discussing readings they had gotten on gauges and such. I didn’t have an intercom connection with the flight crew while I was up there, so I didn’t know they were puzzled by something they’d seen. I was inside the access compartment with my hands around the pump, feeling for leaks, when they decided to crank up the rotors again to check out whatever it was they had seen the first time.

It’s pretty noisy when the engines are operating, so my first indication something odd was going on came when one of the accessory drive-shafts attached to the main gearbox started spinning. I carefully pulled myself out from the compartment and looked up. Sure enough, the rotors were turning about two feet over my head, and now I was in a situation where I could not stand up. From this point onwards everything I did would be from a crouch.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I briefly considered crawling on my belly to the cockpit and start pounding on a window, but I instantly knew that would be too dangerous. The rotor head is slanted forward, so the rotor blades were passing much closer to the cockpit than they were over this access compartment. Besides, helicopters are so noisy inside you can’t even hear a person yelling directly in your ears, so there was no way they would ever hear me thumping on the window.

The engine power was being steadily increased, and the rotors were really whipping around, so the next thing I worried about was if they were going to try flying. If they did, and if I decided I should just leave my tools and the open panels lying around as I reverted to ‘running for mommy’ mode, it was entirely conceivable I would get in trouble later. I know there is no good reason I should have ended up taking the blame for any bad results from this situation, but, if I have learned anything at all from my military experiences, it’s there’s always more than enough blame to go around. When the headhunters are looking to perform sacrifices, it’s not good enough just to say you weren’t responsible for the one big mistake; you also have to prove you tried to prevent it from getting worse.

For that reason I put the panels back in place and made sure to tighten up every fastener. Then I gathered up all my tools to take with me as I slid down the airframe right behind one of the operating engines. That’s not as dangerous as it sounds. The exhaust coming from a turbine engine is nowhere near as forceful as what you would get from the jet engine on a fighter, so, even though I felt the heat for a few seconds, it wasn’t too bad at all. Let’s face it, it couldn’t have been all that dangerous, or else I wouldn’t have been able to climb up there in the first place. (As a side note, this flight crew helped me realize people are often blinded to the effects their actions may have on others when they become too impressed with how important their jobs are. Later in life I would learn politicians and government workers are also prone to have this same careless attitude).

Taking all this into consideration helped me realize accidents can occur no matter what your job is, and when I added this up with two other interesting incidents I came to the conclusion I should keep my flying slot.

The first incident occurred late one night a few weeks before the fatal crash, and I wasn’t flying this time. I was there strictly as a mechanic to take care of the helicopter after it landed. As soon as this helicopter was parked and shut down, I noticed some tree branches were hanging out from the landing gear area, so I crawled down there to pull them out. From this position I was able to see the lens to a light on the belly was broken, and there was also some damage to a couple nearby antennas. I didn’t have to be an Apache Scout to read this trail sign. I knew they must have been zipping along close to the ground, probably relying upon the Terrain Following Radar to guide them, and they’d clearly smacked into a treetop.

I crawled back out and went to the front of the helicopter. The crew was standing in a group there, and I heard the pilot apologize to them for what happened. Naturally, I asked why the aircraft had signs of hitting a tree, and they told me to mind my business. Funny, but I still think finding out why we were going to have to do repairs was my business. It didn’t matter. They refused to say anything. We had to treat it as if we just discovered this unexplained damage during our inspections and leave it at that. Since this incident wasn’t officially being recorded, I’m reasonable certain they decided not to tell other flight crews what they had done. It’s too bad. That type knowledge might have helped keep somebody else from making the same mistake.

The next incident occurred a few days later. I was helping to launch a three ship mission just before dark, and all the crews came out together in a group. As they split up to go to their assigned helicopters they were fooling around. They were doing the standard guy stuff of insulting each other, and responding with finger signals, but the biggest thing they were fixated upon was how many of them had ever been on any real rescue missions.

Just so you know, there is an old tradition in Rescue (a Flight Mechanic started this tradition in Vietnam, by the way, and not a Para-Rescueman as is now commonly believed), where you must get a tattoo of two green feet on your rear end after you actually save somebody during a helicopter mission. It’s considered a big deal to earn the right to wear that tattoo, so pretty much everybody on flying status in a Jolly Green Giant Rescue outfit gets it done as soon as they make a save.

Needless to say, there’s only one way to prove you ever got the tattoo. I found myself standing between two helicopters where guys on both sides of me were pulling down their flight suits and bending over to show off the tiny green feet on their ugly, fat cheeks. I was not impressed. Now, I’d previously seen this display of the feet a number of times, especially when I’d actually been in Rescue units, so I can’t say I was in any way shocked by it, but this was a Special Ops unit, where rescue was secondary to the real mission, and nobody, anywhere, had ever done it to this extreme before.

It seriously bothered me these clowns were the same folks who went around treating maintenance troops as if we were trash, and the "mind your business" type crap they routinely dished out was getting massively on my nerves. I didn’t care a whore’s damn on a pink pony for this nonsense, and I couldn’t take it any longer. I’m normally an easy-going guy, but there are times when I get fed up, and, when I do, I have no problem being blunt. This was one such occasion. After they were done, I looked up at the guy standing above me in the doorway on my helicopter and said, "Now I know why so many H-53’s end up crashing."

He got really upset about that, so he bent down enough to point his finger at my nose, and bellowed, "You’ve never seen them crash a Pave-Low!"

Well, this display of bravado didn’t impress me either. Thanks to the lessons I learned from Louis L’Amour, I’d gotten pretty good over the years at standing my ground. As the Sackett’s would say, "There just ain’t no back-up in me." I seriously meant what I just said, so I wasn’t in any mood to apologize. I kept looking him in the eye and said, "Not yet!"

Then I stood there waiting to see if he had anything else to say. He didn’t, so he went back to doing the things he should have been doing instead of clowning around.

As it turned out later, this guy ended up witnessing the first crash because he was flying in a helicopter beside it, and then his leg got broken on the second crash. The flight crew members from the tree incident were also involved in at least one of these events, so, as soon as I remembered all that, it dawned on me I wasn’t the one who should have been heeding the warning shots; it was the flight crews. They had gotten too cocky with how successful the Pave-Lows had been performing, and because of that they had started taking things for granted. Hell, I’d even been on flights where the crew made unscheduled landings in the countryside just to pick berries – that’s how flippantly they’d been taking things.

Despite the fact ‘Mister Finger In My Face’ had been correct at that particular moment when he’d said no Pave-Low had ever crashed, neither he nor any other crewmember should have started thinking this meant the Pave-lows could never crash. The real irony is neither of these crashes would have occurred if they hadn’t been using Pave-Lows. The first crash happened because the crew put too much faith in all the fancy electronic systems being able to see through clouds, and the second one happened because the extra weight added to the helicopter by all that electronic equipment was more than the gearbox had originally been built to withstand.

The way I saw it now, the warning shots had clearly been there, and these folks had paid the price for failing to pay attention to them. The only good thing about this was the surviving flight crews had finally gotten the message. They were definitely taking things more seriously now, and that was a good thing. As for the guys who were getting removed from flight status, it seemed to me the Special Operations mission was too important to keep Bozos in it anyway, so good riddance. The Special Ops world has never been a good place for glory hounds.

Yes, I knew there was still a chance I could end up on a flight where somebody might be so nervous he’d make a tragic mistake, but that didn’t mean I should make any decisions based solely upon that slim possibility. It had long been one of my principles in life to always find ways to work around my fears, so my ego (make that my male ego, if you prefer), was telling me I wouldn’t be a real man if I allowed other people’s fear to rub off on me in this instance. Therefore, the only choice I could make, and still keep any sense of self-worth, was to keep flying.

I think it is was the correct decision. It would be more than a year before I’d have my final close call while onboard a helicopter (this one was more an almost crash than an actual crash, even though we did hit the ground unexpectedly while flying in a heavy fog, and we bounced a few times before we recovered enough to get back in the air), and in the meantime the flight crews in Special Ops started treating me better. There was one mission where we spent a couple days going through the Bermuda triangle, flying back and forth between Florida and Great Harbour Cay in the Bahamas, and, when we had to RON at Patrick Air Force Base, the flight crew didn’t just leave me with the helicopter. Nope, they took me to billeting with them and signed me in as part of the crew. I was even given a room normally reserved for a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9), and that was a lot nicer than what I usually got.

The upshot is I resolved how to determine when an incident should be treated as a warning shot and when it should be treated as a test of character. Some events can be used to caution us not to take stupid risks, and others can be used to remind us we can’t always just run away when bad things occur.

I honestly think warning shots play a part in a great deal of the tragic events people experience. When you think about it, just how random are they? It may often seem some people are deliberately targeted by fate, but isn’t it more likely it’s all by chance? Personally, I have come to believe it is mostly by chance, and it also seems to me the random aspects of it are pretty much only found amongst the folks who had some inkling it could possibly happen. After all, how many people are really hit by dreadful events with no warning whatsoever?

Nobody suffers from earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes without having been aware they were possible. Same thing with car crashes. We need to be as careful as we can while driving, and that reduces the chances of an accident, but we also need to realize the possibility of a crash exists every time we get into a vehicle. Just putting yourself into one of these situations when you have knowledge of what might occur should be considered a warning shot.

I am perfectly aware some people get caught up in situations where they have to suffer, not because of anything they personally did, but only because they found themselves having to trust somebody else, yet that only means there was somebody in the chain of events who should have heeded the warning signs. Those poor people may have gotten hit by chance, but they probably wouldn’t have if the people they’d trusted had been paying better attention.

This means we need to start being more careful picking the people we should trust. As a child you are basically forced to trust for a while, but, once you survive long enough to start making your own decisions, the least you can do is make damned good and sure the people who have to trust you don’t end up paying for your mistakes. This includes picking the people you then decide to trust yourself. Everybody you care about can be affected when you pick party affiliation over the world’s reality.

Were you surprised when the Twin Towers were attacked? You shouldn’t have been; the warning signs had been out there for a while, and many of our trusted leaders turned a blind eye to them. It’s still happening. Are any serious people going to be surprised later if Iran decides someday to hit us with a nuke? The only people who think Iran doesn’t want to use the nukes they develop are idiotic politicians. The Iranians themselves certainly aren’t making any promises concerning the use of such devices.

All I can say is if the Iranians ever do make a successful attack, it won’t be because we had no warning, and it definitely won’t be because God allowed it; it’ll be because we allowed it.

Isn’t it interesting the people who have decided there is no God oftentimes base this decision upon an irrational belief no higher power should be worshiped if He allows terrible things to occur? How arrogant is that? It’s as if they are saying our lives are so important we should hate God for allowing us to suffer from our own stupidity.

The way I see it, if there is a God, and if we are expected to learn something in a mortal life that we couldn’t learn in a never-ending spiritual one, then God can’t keep saving us without voiding the lessons we’re supposed to learn. Furthermore, if there is a better spiritual life after this one, why in the world would He be as concerned about our mortal deaths as we are? I’d expect Him to be far more concerned about finding out which souls were strong enough to stand up to evil, and which ones were more likely to appease it. A God who loves us and knows He’ll see us again would naturally want us to learn our lessons without any divine interference, so we better get used to the idea of learning how get through life without training wheels.

Well, here’s hoping you learn your lessons in life successfully, and, please, try to pay attention to the warning shots.

PS. Life to America!

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