This is the first Veteran's Day after my father's death earlier this year. Dad served in the Navy during the late 1960's to the early 1970's as a bombardier navigator with VA-65. VA-65 flew A-6 bombers. He had two tours the first in the South China Sea on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. The second in the Mediterranean Sea on the Independance.
Dad joined the Navy voluntarily after college and was accepted into the flight training program. I was born at the Pensacola Naval Air Station while he was in flight training in Georgia. He told me he celebrated with his fellow trainees all night and then flew back to see me.
Last year I recovered dozens of letters Dad sent Mom from the ship. These letters gave me more insight into Dad's war experience than he ever cared to talk about when I was older. I want to share part of a letter he sent my mom the day after my second birthday. Dad was in the South China Sea on the tail end of the cruise.
Dad goes on to write:
I wrote you that our magic carpet ride request had been turned down. The way it was explained to me, 'magic carpet' for flight crews was instituted when pilots were being shot down left and left and right over the North, and was for surviving crews who had to come back shortly to the war again. Since that isn't the case anymore, apparently the powers-that-be feel the expenditure is no longer justified. Anyway, everyone will be riding the ship back - 13 aweful days from from Cubi Pt. to San Diego with no stops en route. We'll arrive San Diego on the 4th or 5th, but will be flying some of our aircraft off on the 2nd or 3rd, to fly directly to Oceana. I will likely not be among these, since my pilot has only been out here 2 months. The rest of our birds will be craned off in San Diego including the six Marine A-6's we have to take back to Norfolk. So chances are good I'll arrive by A-6 at NAS Norfolk about the 6th or 7th, although, of course, nothing is firm yet.
This morning early we lost another A-7 and pilot. He was only an aquaintance of mine, but it was quite a shock, since he flew into the water near the ship on an approach, with no indication of any difficulty.
I've been flying every day lately. I won my fifth Air Medal recently, which really doesn't mean a damn thing. I've also been nominated with Rick for a Navy Commendation Medal, for a hop we flew last April.
There is absolutely nothing left of the air war over here now, which is a good sign. We're flying fewer sorties and dropping less bombs, still on nothing. NVN infiltration has dropped to almost zero. Perhaps the end is finally in sight; it's something to pray for. (The above is highly confidential , by the way).
I am proud of Lt. Terrell S. Plantinga's service during the Navy. He took his job seriously and was very good at it. That's the way he lived his life.