We flew to San Antonio with a group of service men and women returning from duty in Iraq.
At the airport we watched as two young children holding balloons ran into their mother's arms to welcome her home.
So we stumbled upon one aspect of the history of today -
We also revisited our own history.
Randolph Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX was Jim's first assignment when he was drafted into the Air Force in 1958. Maybe some will recall there was a "doctor draft" in those days so Jim knew that as soon as he completed his internship he would be called up - commissioned a Captain. He was assigned to this very building which was the School of Medicine for his training as a Flight Surgeon.
Our son was 2 and half when we moved to Texas.
Because Jim was an Officer we had a blue decal on the front and rear bumpers of our green Ford Station Wagon. When we drove through the front gates the guard spotted that decal, staightened to attention and snapped a salute. Jimmy loved that. Standing on the front seat of the car next to me he would stand straighter and snap a salute back to the guard. Then he'd laugh!
This afternoon Jimmy was driving. When we entered the gate the guard came forward , " ID please." When Jimmy handed his ID to the guard he eyed it, then straightened to attention and snapped a salute.
"Have a nice afternoon, Colonel."
We all laughed.
In 1959 the School of Medicine moved from Randolph AFB to Brooks AFB into these new buildings. Once he had completed his training as a Flight Surgeon Jim as assigned to the faculty at the new School of Aerospace Medicine. This was the early days of the new space effort and they were conducting research and experiments to determine how the human
body would acclimate to space, pressures, isolation and many other aspects of space flight. Jim was assigned to teach a course in Aerospace Medicine and he tells us today that he essentially made it up as he went along.
Space talk was in the air. And a friend and I got caught up in it. We had been in a writers group in Baltimore and we decided to interview the wives of the astronaut candidates to find out how they were coping - especially with their husbands being sequestered in the isolation chambers for long periods of time. My friend's mother was a novelist and her NY agent agreed to handle our manuscript. We had just submitted it to him when Commander Alan Shepard was lobbed into space and the whole scene changed - - - making our women's story yesterday's news. But it was a great experience and we agreed we learned a lot from the doing.
A history surprise:
Jim was transferred to his Psychiatry Residency at UNC in Chapel Hill, NC in July1961...and we lost track of the fine points of what happened at the School of Aerospace Medicine.
So we were surprised when one of the current staff mentioned the connection with President John F Kennedy.
We walked around the Bedwell Building, (named for General Bedwell, the Commander when Jim was there) to see this plague.
President Kennedy came to Brooks on November 21, 1963 to dedicate the Bedwell Building and then flew to Dallas. It was his last public speech before he was killed in Dallas.
A note on the phrase: " We threw our cap over the wall":
Frank O'Connor's early years are recounted in An Only Child, a memoir published in 1961 which has the immediacy of a precocious diary. U.S. President John F. Kennedy remarked anecdotally from An Only Child at the conclusion of his speech at the dedication of the Aerospace Medical Health Center in San Antonio on November 21, 1963: "Frank O'Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too high and too doubtful to try and too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall--and then they had no choice but to follow them. This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space and we have no choice but to follow it."
So many threads weave our stories connecting us to history.