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…..