I have to admit, it takes a lot to impress me. I generally do not go all ga-ga over people or things, but every now and then I am taken by surprise. In my world, I have flown with all types of men and women. Good pilots and not-so good ones. I have met many athletes, celebrities, combat vets, you name it. Although many have been incredibly interesting, few have knocked my socks off. I have flown with Thunderbird pilots, a Canadian Snowbird pilot, a Blue Angel, an Italian Frecci Tricolori pilot, bush pilots, guys who have dropped hardware on Taliban nuggets, guys who have smoked column after column of enemy troops, numerous WWII Luftwaffe pilots, guys who dropped bombs on Khaddafi’s tent back during Operation Elderado Canyon in 1986, you name it. I have met many lawyers, doctors, actors, evangelists and to be honest, although most of these men and women have incredibly fascinating stories, few made me sit back in amazement.
A few to make the grade? Look below.
1. Erich Hartmann – The guy shot down 352 airplanes in WWII. German or not, I don’t care who you are, that is amazing. And he was a nice, humble old man when I met him. Yeah, he pretty much tops the list.
2. I flew with a guy name Maurizio when I was in NATO. He flew with the Italian demonstration team called the Frecci Tricolori. When they had their big mishap at Ramstein AFB back in 1988 (I think), he was flying next to the commander when all hell broke loose and the next thing he knows he’s flying through the fireball as he is watching his commander and good friend’s plane going down in flames. He always has story telling privileges with me.
3. A Delta pilot I flew with about two years ago told me a story of how he had cancer and the day before his Chemo was to begin, his cancer was 100% cured. His mom prayed over him every night. He was doubled over at the waist and could barely move for several months so he slept in a lounge chair. His mom would crawl into the room where he slept, EVERY NIGHT, lay he hands on him and pray. The night before his Chemo, he woke up as his mom was praying and he asked her what she was doing. She stood up, told him not to worry because he was cured and walked out of the room. The very next day, his MRI, about his sixth, showed ZERO cancer. ZERO. Impressed? You better believe it. Here is a guy who has lived God’s promise in dramatic fashion.
4. Okay, here is the fourth and final one although there are others on this list. But two weeks ago I was flying with a young man whose name I don’t want to use in this article. When you come into the presence of someone who has a special story, many times you can just feel it. He was incredibly sharp and has only been flying at Delta for just over one year. So as we begin our four-day adventure together, slowly things start coming out about him. People like this young man rarely just blurt out, “Hey look at me and what I have done.” The ones who do are usually arrogant jerks, liars or both. This kid was neither. For starters, here is a website that I want you guys to go to. The video is approximately 22 minutes long but it is worth the watch. When it comes to internet videos, I normally shut down at 5-8 minutes, that is my limit. But this, this is interesting. Maybe in the internet form of this issue of the Gazette, they can make this a hyperlink. It is long to type out and a Google search of “Until the Whole World Hears!”, the name of the video, only seems to bring up stuff with the Casting Crowns.
Quick and dirty, here is the skinny on this kid. (BTW, he is 33 years-old. Now that I am 53, I can call him “kid.”) He was born in Indonesia to missionary parents. He lived his first 18 years with a tribe of people who were cannibals just a few years before he was born. His father, had to learn their language and since they had no written language he had to create a written language for them. Then, over the next 35 years, his father translated the entire Bible into two different languages. The guy I flew with himself speaks Indonesian, the tribal language he grew up speaking and I think a couple of other languages. His village was 120 miles away from the nearest town so the only way he and his family could get around was via small airplane. He has had malaria some 15 times and now flies at Delta. Please try to see this video. It is professionally done and you will be amazed.
So did this guy make an impression on me? You bet. He is married with a really cute son who looks just like he did when the same age. On the video, you will see a picture of him with his mom, newborn baby sister and several tribal members. But in all, and I told him this, that he was by far one of the most impressive people I have ever met.