A story some of you need right about now...

Discussion in 'ROTC' started by Bullet, Mar 7, 2011.

  1. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Based on the frenzy on these ROTC threads and the Service Academy threads, it's become pretty obvious that it’s that time of year, where many of the young men and women here, or their parents, are getting the exciting and happy news that, yes, you’ve gotten word that your wish has come true, and you’ve been selected for either an ROTC scholarship, or an appointment to the Academy of your choice, or for those very lucky few, both. First off, congratulations! You rightfully should celebrate that wonderful accomplishment and recognition of your achievements so far in your young lives. I envy you the start of what I hope is a very happy and successful career, remembering that this is only the first of many steps, each as difficult and exciting as the first, in your career in the service of this great nation. Go out and celebrate and shout your good fortune from the mountaintops, you’ve earned it.

    But I also realize that for every one of you celebrating this fantastic news, there are probably 10 who are now wondering: “what chance do I have now? Is my dream of one day becoming a XXXXX in the XXXXX now ruined? Can I EVER make it?” Well, for those of you with that thin envelope in your hand, or disappointing e-mail in your in container, allow this “old guy” to tell you about himself, and to let you know that this is not even close to the end of the road if you really want it, and really strive for it. Allow me to tell you a story of how someone in your shoes almost 30 years ago got his dream…

    Go grab a snack, hit the head, sit back, stretch…; Bullet is about to pontificate…

    So, like I said, nearly 30 years ago I was just some happy-go-lucky HS senior just like you (Dang, I’m OLD!!!), a kid with a dream of one day flying fighters, slipping the surly bonds for the AF. Why AF? Why flying? And why fighters? Couldn’t really tell ya, it just was something I wanted to do since I can remember. Freaked the heck out of my parents when I announced to them at age 12 that this was my dream goal in life, they never having a family member serve in the military before outside of WWII, and with NO CLUE what I wanted to get into and how they could help me get there. Freaked them out even more when at 16 I told them my plan was to enlist first, then get my degree and try for a flying spot. I was their youngest, and with two siblings already in college, this idea of mine didn’t fit into their plans for me (not that there is anything wrong with enlisting, they wanted their son to go to college). Well, they marched me (pun intended) straight to a recruiter and sat down with me and him to discuss the options. First he told my parents and me about the AFA. That discussion lasted about 15 minutes before I decided, “not for me” (hearing those great stories from my elder siblings of the great times they had in college, and comparing that to getting up everyday at O-dark-30 at the AFA, kind of influenced me, a bit. Don’t narc me out to my Mom and Dad, they still think it was because their baby didn’t want to be so far from them!). Then he told me about ROTC. You mean I get to go to the school I want, play soldier for one day a week, they PAY me to do it,and when I’m done I get to be an officer and on my way to lighting those after-burners? Sign me up!

    So, just like you, there I was filling applications for the schools I wanted and my paperwork for an AF ROTC scholarship. On a TYPEWRITER no less! (Ask your parents what that is, and “white-out”; you won’t believe them!). Now, I was a “decent” student, mostly As and Bs. Did pretty well for my SATs. ‘Rassled through my Junior year, and played league baseball until I was 16, but let’s face it folks, I wasn’t D1 athletic material (unless you count Rudy as your example; again, ask Mom and Dad) or the next Bruce Jenner (yeah, he was famous for sports BEFORE he married Kim Kardashian’s mom). Then I WAITED, and WAITED, and waited some more. And then I got that same thin envelope some of you are getting now (Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet by then (he was too busy being the role model for “Love Story” at the time), so there was no e-mail). And like you are perhaps feeling now, I was crushed. There went my dreams of being Luke Skywalker, or Maverick, or Pappy Boyington leading the Black Sheep squadron (again, ask Mom and Dad; it was a show in the 70s--LOVED that show!)

    But part of me, the stubborn part, said to myself, “well at least you can try”. So I showed up to my school (I was lucky enough that Mom and Dad could pay, and trust me, back then tuition and board was a fraction of what it is now!), signed up for ROTC, and just decided to “try”. Did all the stupid things a freshmen cadet could do, like show up on day one and asked the Commandant of Cadets (a Colonel): “Excuse me, Sergeant. Is this the right place for the ROTC class?”, or asking my flight commander if I REALLY had to show up for formation so early, or if there was another one I could go to at a more decent hour?”

    And you know what? I discovered that I enjoyed hanging out with my ROTC friends, finding a clique of folks who were like me and had similar goals and desires. Trust me, being a small fish in a VERY big pond like a State U., it was great having a small group to belong to. I was asked to join a Fraternity or two, but I already found one, and it was ROTC. So I became INVOLVED; hung out at the lounge, went to the extra duty things (like cleaning the stadium after football and basketball games), joined Arnold Air Society (mostly because it was full of people like me, who wanted to fly, like me), and became KNOWN. And over my first Summer break between my Freshmen and sophomore year, I got a BFE in the mail (still no e-mail yet!) telling me I got a 3-year scholarship! Life was FANTASTIC!

    But you know what else? Getting a degree in Aero Engineering was HARD! The grades weren’t perfect As. Not even close to perfect Bs. They were more like mediocre Cs. Well, Uncle Sam, who was now paying for my college, didn’t like Cs, and grounded me. (i.e. scholarship went “bye-bye”). I was crushed again (but I think my parents were more, as their cruise plans went from First Class Hawaii to the Staten Island Ferry). But they loved me, and supported me, and told me to pick myself up. (Just like your parents are telling you now). Then the Summer between my Junior and Senior year, I got to go to Flight Screening at Daytona. What a thrill, flying AND the Beach! It was great, until I discovered (or, it was pointed out to me), that I just wasn’t military pilot material AT THAT TIME. It just didn’t click for me fast enough, I was constantly behind the aircraft. Bottom Line: washed out, right out of the gate. You thought I was crushed before? I was DEVASTATED! (Ask Pima, we were dating at the time). And for one semester after that, I simply “gave up”. My dream was gone, why should I care?

    But someone cared about me, Capt Chester A.A. Arther, my ROTC advisor (and I’ll NEVER forget him). He saw my dream, and saw how involved I was, and saw how I loved that life, all before that fateful summer. And here’s the kicker: he went to bat for me with the ROTC leadership, putting his rep on the line for a kid he knew would be an asset for the AF if given another chance. He came up to me, and said “Son, we’re giving you another chance. Here’s a Nav slot. Don’t let me down.”

    And I didn’t: graduated the next semester, with Capt Arther giving me my Oath of Office in front of my proud parents and future wife-to-be. Went on to Nav school, and for me it suddenly “clicked”. Flying to me became easy, fun, happy and thrilled to be doing it. While others studied and studied, then struggled in the classroom and the sim and in the air, I sailed through with ease. It was what I was BORN to do; and I graduated #2 in my class (only because I miss-marked one lousy test answer; one lousy answer!). Selected for fighters as a Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) (Sierra Hotel!), F-111s (the only “fighter” available at the time). Went on from there, doing well in every job, loving every job, amazed that Uncle Sam was now paying me to do something I love! Did the Jump thing with the Army for a couple of years when the F-111s went “bye-bye” (actually, I loved that as well). Then I got to the Strike Eagle, and I thought I was in HEAVEN! Flew in Alaska. Went to Gosh-awful places with some of the best men and women I ever had the honor of knowing and calling “friend”. Did the Pentagon thing. Had a FANTASTIC career, not because I was flying, but because I LOVED being an officer and a member of the world’s greatest AF. I still bleed AF blue. And when I raised my hand several years ago to take my oath of retirement, ask Pima, I could barely get the words out I was so emotional that the joy ride was over.

    So, you’re probably asking: why the long story, Bullet? Well, it’s to let you know that you may not have gotten your dream today, but that doesn’t stop you from getting your dream tomorrow. The ONLY thing that will stop you is if you give up. This is only the first step in a very looooooong marathon (parents, get used to it). And just because it seems to you that right out of the gate the race is over, let me tell you: IT AIN’T. You CAN get that dream, just on a different starting path.

    It happened to this kid. Who says it can’t happen for you?

    Best of luck to you all, and may you all eventually get your dreams.

    And for those of you who will eventually get to “slip the surly bonds”? Well, pull up a stool at the bar and let me tell you a story while I shoot down my watch….. :thumb:
     
  2. parentofmen

    parentofmen Member

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    you made me cry

    Thanks for sharing such a great story! You're an inspiration.
     
  3. CandidateInSD

    CandidateInSD Parent

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    I think your ancedote is just what all of us frazzled parent and their kids needed at this very moment, I sincerely thank you for the encouragement!!!
    if you and Pima ever find yourselves in San Diego, the door is open, the grill will be hot and the beer cold!!!!
     
  4. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    And it's why I posted it. Dreams don't die when you stumble, they die when you refuse to get back up.

    And thanks for the invite. If we ever make it out there, we'll bring the Jeremiah Weed...
     
  5. paradoxer

    paradoxer Member

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    Thanks for reminding us one foot forward and then another

    Read a book once that said many pilots know when they are five years old this is what they want to do. Did you meet many like yourself that just knew this is what they wanted to do from when they were quite young?
     
  6. Lynpar

    Lynpar Member

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    Bullet, thank you for your story, I hope the kids and parents who need to find or hear the "right words" read it soon. Just one question, does Pima still swoon when you tell it or is she at the rolling the eyes, :rolleyes: here we go again place? It is all new to us so we love it. Both of you share such insightful and helpful information. It is nice to hear the personal side of things to. :thumb:
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2011
  7. ProudMom

    ProudMom Member

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    Thanks Bullet!!!

    That was truly inspirational. You and Pima are a wonderful pair. Thank you both for all of your help, guidance and inspiration. I don't know if I could have made it through this journey without you guys.

    Now just waiting and hoping for a DoDMERB waiver for AFROTC for my DS.

    Thanks again for everything. :wink:
     
  8. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    There are plenty of kids at age 5 who "just know" they want to grow up to be doctors, or vets, or policemen, or firemen, or teachers, or a whole list of things.

    Some keep those dreams in their hearts the whole time they are growing up, and set themselves on the path to finally achieve that dream. Some change their minds, and decide they would rather be cowboys, or ballerinas, or hockey players, or whatever. Some strive for that original dream and never give up, no matter the stumbles, no matter the obstacles. And to be brutally honest, some just don't make it. But the common denominator in all: they NEVER give up.

    Yes, I have known many pilots and WSOs who knew they wanted to fly fighters from the time they were in kindergarten. And I've met some who accidentally stumbled into the ROTC lounge when they were looking for their class and decided, "hey, this looks cool." Me? I just thank the lord almighty that he gave me the opportunity to live my dream.

    But I thank him more he allowed me to become an Air Force Officer....
     
  9. Bullet

    Bullet Member

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    Pima doesn't swoon anymore over my stories.

    She will, however, once in a while give me that "your my hero" sigh when I walk into the room, flashing that pearly white smile, eyes gleaming with that debonair, devil-may-care attitude, wind seductively blowing though my hair as I look up and sideways, chest swelling, with my hands on my hips and a hearty "Why, Heeeellllooooo there, pretty lady!" jauntily escaping my lips! :biggrin:

    In all honesty, I am the blessed one in this relationship, and I thank goodness everyday that the almighty above saw fit to make a woman like her fall in love with an idiot like me. I got to live my dream, she got to pick up afterwards and raise a family; never complaining, always with a smile even when I told her Uncle Sam said it was time to move again; and again.

    I can only hope your children find a partner as wonderful and as understanding as her; it will make this tough life they choose all that much easier....
     
  10. paradoxer

    paradoxer Member

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    This is better than the first story

    Unequivocally better
     
  11. Sherlock

    Sherlock New Member

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    Wow!

    Bullet,

    SHACK!

    We must have lived some kind of parallel life.

    I got knocked down at least three times on my way to a Strike Eagle.

    NEVER GIVE UP!

    Cheers!

    Sherlock
     
  12. AlabamaMom

    AlabamaMom Member

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    Bullet, what a great story. Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to share this with my DS. He was the 5 year old when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up would answer a General and has never changed his mind.
     
  13. patentesq

    patentesq Parent

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    There are many of us with a similar story to tell. I showed up at my SMC and decided that all I wanted to be was U.S. Army Infantry (I wasn't smart enough to be a pilot). I got a 3yr Scholarship when I showed up. I think it helped that the cadre knew that I was determined to be U.S. Army officer, either with a scholarship or without.

    The really ironic thing was that I went I showed up as a cadet, I wasn't sure that this was what I wanted to do. It took me about two weeks to figure that out.
     
  14. vamom

    vamom Member

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    Great story, and a wonderful one to share with DS. As a very young boy, when asked what he wanted to do "when he grows up", he replied "I never want my feet to touch the ground".....and he's still sayin' it! Wish him luck, as I wish all of the DS's and DD's the same. And PIMA is my hero!
     
  15. lroddy

    lroddy Member

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    Oh wow...wow, wow, wow...thank you for sharing your amazing journey with all of us! You and your story remind me of two of my favorite sayings that I always tell my kids (5 kids of my own and 96 I teach everyday) and yes, they DO give me the eye roll when I start in with these, first: When bad things happen you have two choices...1. Fold up like a camp stool or 2. pick yourself up, brush yourself off and move forward and "You're not finished when you lose, you're finished when you quit"
    So thank you again for your words of wisdom and if you're ever in MN the door is open here as well!
     
  16. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    FYI, I still do swoon over Bullet, but now it is when he realizes that square thing to the right of the sink is what actually is called the dishwasher...not me!:shake:

    A couple of things.

    First, I knew Bullet was going to write his novella because we discussed what was going on, and he had said maybe I should let them know it isn't over.

    Secondly, Bullet left out a couple of things

    ~~~ When he came home from Daytona, it was a 4 month funk. I finally said to him which is more important being an officer in the AF or flying? Officer of course!

    Fine, to be an officer you need to graduate from college, end of subject. Let's just tackle one thing at a time.

    ~~~ When he went to FTU for the 111's this guy who busted Daytona left FTU with these stats:

    Distinguished Grad (DG) and Number 1 in his class. He competed against other WSO's and PILOTS for that honor. Some of the pilots had hundreds of flying hours compared to his 50-60 hours.

    First student in 11 yrs to get an Exceptionally Qualified (EQ) on a check sim.
    First student in 17 yrs to get an EQ on a check flight ride.

    Again, this was a guy only 3 yrs earlier told he didn't have the right stuff to fly. His crew mate an AFA grad pilot, busted FTU and was forced to meet an FEB. They took his wings away. FEB = Flight Evaluation Board.


    Now FF down the road to O3 PME aka SOS. Bullet graduated DG there also. Again only 10 yrs earlier the AF told him at 17 that he didn't make their cut for scholarships. Yet, here he stood as a DG.

    Like he stated it is what you do after they slap you down that determines the mark of that person. You can stay down or get up and say BS, I am not done. I am going to get it.

    Now if anyone says well that was 20-30 yrs ago. You are right, but as many know our DS just got picked up for UPT. So let's use his det as an ex.

    ~~~ He could have listened to nay sayers and not throw his hat in the ring because he applied for non-tech. We all know only 5% get that. He got it.
    You will never get anything if you don't apply for it, that is the only 100% certainty anyone can give you.
    ~~~He could have listened to people say are you crazy for taking AFROTC over the AFA, as a non-tech your chances of getting UPT are almost slim to none. He got it....he also listened to his Command who know statistically that if he stayed on the course his odds were like everyone elses. He knew by forcing a non-tech kid into a tech program his odds would drop, because more than likely his grades would not be competitive (honestly, if you don't like the major you lose academic motivation).

    ~~~ Everyone in his det that asked for rated got it. 100%

    30-40% of the ones on the slate were scholarship. In other words they were the minority. The bulk went to non-scholarship cadets. They did have

    20% were non-tech. 1 was scholarship, 1 was not.


    As crushing as it is to get the "At this time we are unable...", it isn't over. When you are done licking your wounds, you will see that there are hundreds of cadets and officers that got those letters, who dusted themselves off and got their dreams because they never gave up until they wanted to give in.

    Believe it or not the ball is now back in your court.

    Done with my novella.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2011
  17. Ksmom

    Ksmom Proud Parent

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    Thank you Bullet, and Pima!
    The wisdom and experience you both share is worth more than any of us can say. You totally validated the meaning of this forum.
    Thank you - thank you - thank you :smile:
     
  18. Werdkils

    Werdkils New Member

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    Thanks for the inspiration really :) I've been turned down by pretty much eveywhere and it has been really disheartening but this really does give me hope that it will all still work out in the end. Thank you so much!!
     
  19. Gatorgirl37

    Gatorgirl37 New Member

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    Thank you

    My son got the white envelope of denial yesterday. At first I wasn't going to give it to him right away, but then realized that in life you do not always get what you want the first try. He has already been excepted into 4 schools, 2 instate, and will have almost everything covered by his pre paid and bright future awards. So now the decision is his to join ROTC and continue his goal of nuclear engineering for the Navy. I think that all of the applicants should be given a round of applause for stepping up to serve our country. Congrats to those who were offered the scholarship I wish you the best of luck. And for those who didn't Bullet is right keep your dream insight and go for it.
     
  20. falconfamily

    falconfamily Member

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    It is said that we are defined more by how we overcome disappointments than how we celebrate sucess. Kudos to Bullet for sharing his story. Gator, best wishes to your son and your family.
     

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