Blogs by Rep Bob Lynn

Blog site of Representative Bob Lynn, Alaska House of Representatives,District 31 Anchorage, Alaska. Blogs consist of public comments during legislative sessions, speeches, political commentary, as well as personal observations, and some journal type entries. Comments are invited.

Location: Anchorage, Alaska, United States

Member of the Alaska State House of Represeentatives since 2003. US Air Force, Retired; military bandsman; F94C interceptor pilot; Vietnam service as radar controller (Monkey Mountain), radar site commander(Pleiku); Government Contract Management; Public school Teacher, Retired. Married 55 years to Marlene Wagner Lynn, 6 children, 20 grandchildren, 1 great-grandchild. Member St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton Church. Former Tucson Arizona policeman, Ambulance Driver and Mortician's Assistant, Realtor (currently on referral status).

Thursday, December 18, 2008



I know a lot of people, some better than others. Every politician does. Everybody else does too. But my “friends?” - well, not that many. A friend has an un-definable “specialness.”

Verlin Borton Tranter, Lt. Col, US Army, Retired, was my friend. My friend passed away on Tuesday, 9 December 2008, in Huntsville, Alabama. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

Our lifelong friendship started in 1952 at Malden Air Base in southeast Missouri, when we were roommates in Air Force Aviation Cadets, Class 53D, learning to fly the big yellow mighty T-6. He was “Tranter” to me then and since. I seldom called my friend “Borton,” and I think hardly ever “Verlin.” So I’ll refer to him as “Tranter” now.

Tranter and I hit it off almost immediately. Long conversations at Malden continued after official “lights out.” We always had two other roommates, in the old chicken house that had been converted into a cadet barrack. At various times at Malden, we had Danish and French roommates (good comrades), as well as one American roommate who “washed out” early, and then a college graduate cadet roommate who thought his education made him better than those of who - at that time - only had high school diplomas.

“Talking religion” was one Tranter’s and my favorite activities. He was a devout Baptist and I was, in a manner of speaking, a “reverent agnostic” in my youthful days. Weekends, Tranter always listened to Rev. Billy Graham’s sermons on the radio. I listened in. Then we’d debate the sermon. In those days so long ago, young people actually talked about religion (we both 19).

I used to drive Tranter to the Malden Chapel for choir practice. Before his passing, Tranter was singing in three musical groups at the 1st Baptist Church in Huntsville (I never sang in a church choir, because I didn’t want the candles to wilt). I credit Tranter setting the foundation for my later conversion into a believing, practicing, Christian - Catholic as it turned out. Tranter was always tolerant of my “doings,” so he was probably somewhat OK with that too!

After graduation from Cadets at Malden, we transferred to Webb Air Force Base at Big Springs, Texas, where we learned first to fly the T-28, and then the T33 “T-Bird” jet. Once again, Tranter and I were roommates. Our other roommate was Marcel Zeelmaekers, a Belgian cadet - killed later in a jet fighter crash. In June 1953 at age 20, Tranter and I earned our shiny Air Force wings and “butter bar” second lieutenant commissions. And then we each embarked on our full, and sometimes adventurous, separate lives.

After cadets. Tranter checked out in the F86E Saberjet fighter, and flew missions in Korea. By a miracle, he survived a mid-air collision with a Navy fighter, and used his flying skill to bring his crippled bird back to the base for a “walk-away” landing.

After leaving the Air Force, Tranter worked a short time as an airline pilot, then got involved with the Reserve. Amazingly, he went from the Air Force into the US Army – earning Army pilot wings. Later Tranter became an Army helicopter pilot, and served two hairy tours in Vietnam. He helicoptered from one dangerous mission to another dangerous mission under enemy fire – and earned a whole “fruit salad” of military awards and decorations for bravery and service to America. On one occasion Tranter sent me a cassette tape letter from Vietnam, describing some of the action – and I could hear helicopter sounds in the background.

After retirement from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel, Tranter went through a tough aviation safety school at the University of Southern California (USC) and upon graduation took a job with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as an accident investigator. There his common sense, education, and full-range flying experience – prop planes, jet planes, helicopters – were put to good use.

Even though we were in cadet flying school together 55 years ago, I flew only one time with Tranter, and that was in 1969. I was serving (pushing paper) at Warner-Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia, and Tranter was Army flying at Fort Benning, Georgia. One night he flew an Army L19 Birddog light plane over to Warner-Robbins to see me, then took me up flying – handing me the controls, and letting me shoot one night landing after another (which proves Tranter was a brave man).

This last September 2008, I finally attended the bi-annual Malden Air Base Aviation Cadet Reunion in southeast Missouri. My principal reason for attending: I knew Tranter would be there. Turns out he had turned into an old geezer - just like me! He stayed thin. I got fat. We both lost hair. We told “war stories,” and shared memories. To me, the Malden reunion wasn’t just about sharing cadet memories, exciting as they were, the real re-union was with Tranter. Thank God I had the good sense to be there for the re-union. Somehow, I knew I should be.

A friend is a friend regardless how long the separation. I roomed with Tranter in Aviation Cadets during 1952 and 1953, and spent one evening’s time fun flying time with him in Georgia forty-one years ago in 1969. Over the years, we exchanged Christmas cards, and emails. We talked often on the phone. We always knew what was going on in each other’s families. And then we met for the last time in September 2008.

When challenged in cadet flying school, in Korea and Vietnam, at USC, in his personal life, and in final illness, Tranter “kept on keeping on.” Tranter never understood the word “quit.” Tranter is one of the most remarkable and most successful – and modest - men I’ve ever had the honor to know - and to call a friend.

God Bless you Tranter. Thank you for being my friend. Keep flying high. Rest in God’s peace.

Note: The photos show Tranter 1952 at Malden in Aviation Cadet uniform, "three amigos" Cadets Bob Lynn, Marcel Zeelmaekers, Borton Tranter in Texas 1953, and in September 2008 Tranter and I demonstration "formation flying" with our hands, and Borton's podtrait I took.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to thank you for the genuinely sincere article you included about my father-in-law, Ltc.V.B. Tranter. He was an incredible fellow, loving to family and stranger alike, and a man who knew how to love Christ.

When he slipped, he came to Christ in sincerity, with an humble heart, and went back to the business of living a life for Jesus.

His testimony and sincerity about the Lord made my conversion to Christ, and my steps toward living an honorable life, easier because of his example and support.

I have been married to his eldest daughter, Grace Diane, for almost 35 years. She loved her "Daddy" and so did I.

Thank you for loving him, too.

Rev. Bruce A. Jerome

8:43 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

Sir, the relatives of Marcel Zeelmaekers would love to get in touch with you. They are trying to find out more details about his crash at Luke AFB in 1953, and more details in general about his life in the USAF.
You can contact us via

Thanks very much,

Peter Celis (Air Force pilot myself)

11:40 PM  

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