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.
- Name: Blogs by Rep Bob Lynn
- 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).
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
CHRISTMAS EVE, PLEIKU, VIETNAM 1972
Christmas Eve in Pleiku. A sunny day in the Highlands. Clean air brings distant mountains close. A day like other days. Five rockets aimed at the runway rock my quarters.
I drive the jeep to Pleiku City. Nearby the base, a stream is playground and washbasin for Montgnaards: happy children and bare breasted old women carrying straw baskets like backpacks. Dusty men in loincloths keep watch and smile at me.
In town, kite-like Christmas ornaments and shiny tinsel decorate the cathedral. National yellow and red flags flank a grotto of The Virgin.
The market place is cluttered ARVN* (*Army of the Republic of Vietnam) jeeps smoke the air. Hondas, pedicabs, and Lambretta scooters dart along dusty streets. I barter for a native basket while a group tries to steal My jeep battery. A crowd gathers. Hands reach for my wallet, my camera, hands finger my pocket. My change is stolen. I am cheated 100 piaster. My life is not worth 25 cents. My jeep is surrounded, and I let out the clutch, scattering “cowboys”* (*Vietnamese hoodlum types). My heart races with the jeep. And my Christmas shopping is complete.
I drive “home.” Painted girls standing by a manger scene in a whorehouse yard wave as I go by. I wave and smile. Merry Christmas to all.
A tape is at home from home. Voices from the box come from a week ago and 12,000 miles away. The voices have been captured and are with me. But it’s not real. Letters and tapes and gifts cannot heal how I feel.
At the Club a plastic Joseph and Mary are plugged in and lit. Red Cross gifts in plastic bags surround the base of an artificial tree. On the wall behind the Christmas scene behind the Holy Family the reclining nude in a painting smiles down at our merry group.
Pizza and drinks are free. Anything we want. Christmas music blares from the tape player. We drink and drink and make jokes and we are lonely together.
A church has sent gifts through the Red Cross. We open them. One for each of us. I gave the names today. Combs, cigarettes, toothpastes, and toothbrushes. A child’s name on a card, “Have a Merry Christmas, Cindy, age 11, born 1961. Died?” A lieutenant stares, “This kid’s a weirdo, I don’t want this gift.”
A rocket impacts and cracks. We jump. We start to run. Screw it! We take another drink, sit back down. “That kid’s a weirdo,” the lieutenant repeats. We nod our heads wisely. The drinks warm our heads, our feelings, but there is a knot in my stomach. “Merry Christmas,” we toast each other again. And again.
Men begin to drift into the night. A sergeant passes out hymnals. “Turn to page 189 and sing,” he mock orders. Drunken voices singing of the Christ Child. I want to leave but I don’t want to leave the crowd and be alone.
I think about going to Midnight Mass. This morning Father repeated the old saw that Midnight Mass will be at midnight. We had laughed politely. To get to Midnight Mass I must drive the jeep off base on a dark road for three miles. I don’t want to do that.
Outgoing artillery is whumping. Flares light the perimeter fence. A star flare lights the southern night sky as if blaspheming the Christmas Star. I have drunk too much but not enough. The road belongs to Charlie* (*military slang for the Viet Cong) and the Bad Guys at night. I think about arming myself and going anyway, maybe like running a gauntlet. But I’m too scared. I’m an ashamed drunk. I have never before been scared on Christmas Eve. I’ll go tomorrow. Maybe.
I return home to my room. It’s a mess. Like me. I shut the door on Vietnam. And lock it. I turn on the radio. Jungle Bells fills the room. I take an Alka Seltzer and lie down before midnight. Christmas arrives an hour later but I don’t know it.
Now it’s three fifty-seven P.M. on Christmas Eve at home in the world. I sit on the edge of my bed and write all of this about Christmas Eve in Pleiku, Christmas 1972.
Note: Photo of me taken by an old Vietnamese civilian photographer with an old camera at Camp Holloway, Pleiku. This journal entry was written in my journal as a free style poem; I changed it for this blog post to prose style to conserve space.
A RADAR CONTROLLER’S CHRISTMAS EVE
Being an intercept director also involved radar surveillance, and that’s where my military Christmas Eve memories come in. NORAD, the acronym for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, in Colorado Springs is responsible for air and space threats against the U.S. and Canada. NORAD is also charge of keeping children informed of Santa's worldwide journey to their homes. One of the far northern radar surveillance sites will “make up” a plot of a blip on their radar, identify it as “Santa Claus,” and call it in to NORAD. In turn, NORAD would send the plots to other radar sites for continued tracking. The military tracking of Santa Claus started about 1955.
My first experience with the tracking of Santa Claus was actually 1955 when I was an Intercept Director at Jitney Control, at the (now demolished) Cape Charles Air Force Station on the tip of the Cape Charles Peninsula in Virginia. The Plotters behind the big plastic screen would write backward with orange grease panics to plot Santa Claus, and we’d report Santa’s progress to anyone who wanted to know. When Santa passed our station, we’d pass off the plot to the next radar site south. We followed the same Santa Claus tradition at other radar control sites where I was stationed: Los Angeles Air Defense Sector, Kotzebue AFS Alaska, Malmstrom Air Defense Sector, at Monkey Mountain and Pleiku in Vietnam, and at Sembach Air Base, Germany.
Another military radar memory of Christmas Eve (and Christmas) in my days of yore was that the officers would man the crew positions of the enlisted men so they could be home with their wives and children. Of course, there were no wives or children in Vietnam when I controlled at Monkey Mountain and Pleiku, but the officers would still - numbers permitting - fill in as many enlisted crew positions as we could to “give the gift” Christmas Eve and Christmas to the “troops.” I assume (I hope) these traditions are continuing tonight and tomorrow at our Air Force radar control sites around the world. Best wishes for a Merry and Blessed Christmas
Note: Photo is of me directing intercepts at Kotzebue AFS, Alaska, where I was Radar Operations Officer and Second-in-Command.
CHRISTMAS EVE ROADSIDE OFFICE
I always try to conduct the Roadside Office where folks have room to pull their car over and stop. Usually, I have several people stop to visit. But this time everybody except one just waved and tooted their horns. Guess there was too much snow, and just plain too cold. The one guy who did stop asked if I had permission to be there! Apparently I made direct contact with the one grinch in our district. Even grinches deserve a Merry Christmas. So I gave him one!
Monday, December 22, 2008
11 SECONDS AND GAINING
Today in Anchorage, the rosy fingers of dawn peeped over the eastern horizon at 10:14 AM this morning, and won’t go down in the west until 3:42 PM. Wow! That’s a whole 5 hours, 28 minutes, and 11 seconds of heart warming daylight. That’s much better than yesterday - but not as good as tomorrow.
Actually the sun rises more to the southeast, hovers to the south during the day, and sets in the southwest because our far northern latitude - thereby enabling Alaskans to “look down” on the Lower 48.
Whatever, Anchorage has more winter light than Fairbanks, and Barrow which has zero daylight this time of year. Have a bad winter night in Barrow, and you’re talking a long, long, time.
The next “headline of light” will be when we “spring forward” our clocks this spring - it doesn’t change the number of daylight hours, but it surely seems like it. The bottom line? Light adds my natural sunny disposition.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
VERLIN BORTON TRANTER, Lt. Col US Army, Retired
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.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
67 YEARS AGO - TIME MARCHES ON
The Japanese Navy pilots who carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor would now likely be in their nineties. The famous American Marine ace Gregory “Pappy” Boyington of “Baa Baa Black Sheep” fame, if he were alive today would be ninety-six. The Japanese pilot Masajiro "Mike" Kawato who finally shot down Boynton, if alive would now be eighty-three.
The American and Japanese World War II pilot adversaries met after the war and became close friends. In fact, I met both Pappy Boyington and Kawato at a Chino California Air Show in the mid-eighties. The old pilots had adjoining booths, were joking with each other, and signing books. I have a photo of Pappy Boyington signing his book for my son John.
It was not the Japanese general public, but the Japanese government headed by Prime Minister Hideki “The Razor” Tojo (a supporter of the Nazis on the other side of the globe), and some twenty-eight other major war criminals, who were responsible for Pearl Harbor and the bloody war with Japan. Had Tojo not been executed sixty years ago as a war criminal, he would have been 114 years old on this Pearl Harbor Day 2008.
The point of this: “Remember Pearl Harbor,” even though it happened sixty-seven years ago, Never forget the cost of war.
I’ve looked down from the war memorial at the battleship USS Arizona sunk by the Japanese to the bottom of Pearl Harbor, where American sailors are still entombed in a watery grave. And I confess to mixed emotions on observing young Japanese tourists at the same Pearl Harbor Memorial, looking down at the battleship perhaps sunk by their grandparents.
The fact is, none of us are responsible for the sins of our ancestors. But each and all of us are responsible for the here and now.
Note: The top photo is from a painting depicting the horror of Pearl Harbor Day. The middle photo is of Togo, one of the prime instigators of the attack. The bottom photo shows peaceful Pearl Harbor today, with the Memorial over the sunken USS Arizona. Time marches on.
Saturday, December 06, 2008
OPERATION SANTA CLAUS: KAVILINA
Kivalina is a traditional Inupiat Eskimo village, where most of the food sources come from whaling, fishing, and hunting. It’s located above the Arctic Circle, at the tip of a barrier island, about 80 miles northwest of Kotzebue, Alaska. Some 380 Inupiat Eskimos live there. I think all of them came to McQueen School to see Santa Claus – and even Governor Sarah Palin!
Four star General Howie Chandler, Commander of the Pacific Air Force was also there, as well as Lt. General Craig Campbell, Alaska Adjutant General, and many other notables. We were entertained by the village choir, and traditional dancers. I wish some of the folks in urban areas could be as gracious and friendly as the Kivalina villagers.
There’s a stark Arctic beauty north of the Arctic Circle, and it’s breathtaking. The view of the Chukchi Sea, and the south December sun touching the horizon is awesome. But the high point of our visit to Kivalina was watching the children receive Christmas presents from Santa and Mrs. Claus, assisted by Sarah Palin.
The top photo show the precarious location of Kivalena. The next photo shows me deplaning from the C130 at Kivalena. Gov. Sarah Palin is shown talking to the folks who came to visit Santa, and the children receiving gifts from Santa and Sarah. The last photo shows me indulging my photo hobby at the shore of the frozen Chukchi Sea at Kivalena.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
TIME OUT, PLEASE
Likewise, Alaska has a two-party political system - plus some “third parties” to make things interesting. Hopefully (and hope springs eternal), political parties will put the last election to rest - no matter whom we voted for - and (like the branches of government should do) put Alaska first. No matter who runs for what at some future date - president, senate, governor, state house, whatever - it’s time to give partisan and other political attacks a much needed rest for the benefit of Alaska. Time out, please!
Let’s give each other a political hug – but not across the neck and carotid artery.
Monday, December 01, 2008
GREAT COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENTS
The House Republican Majority held its second Organization Meeting today, December 1st, in Anchorage and our majority members received committee assignments.
I will again Chair the House State Affairs Committee. I’m a six year veteran of the State Affairs Committee, and served the last two years as Chair. I’ll also be returning to membership on the House Judiciary Committee, where I’ve served for the last two years.
Once again I’ll be a member of the House Labor and Commerce Committee. I served previously on that committee in 2003-2004.
I’ll be a first time member of the House Health and Social Services Committee, but will return to the House Special Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, where I served as Chair in 2003 and part of 2004. This time I’ll be Vice-Chair.
I’ll also soon be receiving assignment to some Finance Sub-Committees, where the “nuts and bolts” of the budget is put together.
As of this date, the minority membership have not announced their committee assignments.
All the standing committees are very important, and carry large workloads. It’s unusual a legislator to be on such a large number of major committees. In practical terms, it means I’ll be working and voting in committee on almost all the bills and resolution that will be coming through the House of Representatives enroute to the Floor vote. In fact, I’ll be seeing some of the same bills more than once as they pass through the different committees. I’m looking forward to the coming legislative session.