Soaring

It’s an incredible photo from a walk close to Gator’s homestead. It prompts another deep region, even a place unnamed, and familiar. A perfect photo by Gator’s son of an Eagle, flying overhead and a gasp of purpose and life as viewed when Soren showed Jack the photo. The eagle had a glint in his eye and his claws were tucked in back, out of the air-stream. ‘Rotation, gear up’ A slight flash of light on his incredible beak and Gator shivered contemplating this aviator with talons and sharp, piercing beak. Danger close.

It was flying into the wind, looking down. The intense stare at the camera and us, it told a story. A tale of life lived as a predator from the sky, silent and flying with irresistible death from above. No escape. No way to reason with the eagle. Can you envision a small animal, with a white flag waving desperately?

Gator thought back to the fighters he saw launch from an aircraft carrier about 300 feet away. On the port side of his ship, a huge fleet Oiler that was Steaming at flank speed. Barely able to stay with the carrier. The oiler’s huge screws, making the aft mess deck thunder and shake. As it must do, the carrier had to maintain wind over the flight deck to help those fighters get airborne. The flight deck blast door up, engine at full, burning gallons of JP4 per second and suddenly, the fighter leaped down the deck, dropped a little off the bow and already had gear up and climbing. Awe inspiring at night ops.

Steam swirling around the channel from the catapult, and the power heard of the fighter still climbing to watch over the battle group. Combat Air Patrol, CAP. Just like the eagle, deadly talons and loaded and armed. Looking for anything within range, anything moving where the fighter was, something that an enemies weapons radar would detect and cause terror for them. Now a target. A Tomcat fighter, armed with a tactical nuke, just in case it got ugly. A little vaporization reaches everybody.

Later that night, the enemy came near off the starboard and lit up Gators ship and quickly dropped It’s missiles midship, right at Gator. He was on deck, headed aft for mid-rats. It didn’t look promising. Gators ship had 8 million gallons of various fuel in it’s huge belly, a tanker with puny three inch gun turrets on the bow and stern. The strong image of a flaming, roaring death with the sea covered with burning bunker oil. Basic training coming to mind on how to impossibly swim beneath the flames.

It wasn’t a movie. Gator could see the 02 or 03 level on the enemy ship, it’s radar turning around and around and the spotlight from it still steady on our bridge, blinding our helmsman and the combat information bridge, just above (CIC). Those missiles dropped from vertical incredibly fast with the sound of a hammer being cocked on a very large pistol.

Suddenly, the missiles went back vertical and the cruiser sharply veered off and disappeared into the dark sea at full speed. The Tomcat was there with the battle group, flying overhead, painting the enemy cruiser with it’s radar. Dropping out of the sky at almost Mach 1 and It had and prepared it’s talons.

Gator was still alone on the long deck, still poised to go get a midnight rations (midrats). Suddenly Jack had lost his appetite for anything available, good or bad. A narrow victory for the big fat slow tanker with friends in high places. The fear felt is still sharply felt after five decades. It was Just a bit more scary than a man with ill intent, coming it at you. Terrifying is the word.

There is a bit of prose that Mrs.Gator remembers while Gator writes this memoir: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint” Old truth, timeless and steady.

It’s very good news to everyone that understands the book of promise and freedom. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

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