The Sound of Freedom, an Inconvenient Truth

Posted on 30. Jan, 2009 by in Featured

I received a letter yesterday form an old friend I had cruised in the USS Midway with in the late 80’s and flew F-4 Phantoms with ten years later. It is poignant and reminded me of the days when my squadron and the other squadrons of the VA/VAQ Air Wings at NAS Whidbey Island would be harassed by the “good citizens” of a subdivision outside of Coupeville Washington.

EA-6B Prowler

EA-6B Prowler

Before we could deploy over the war torn skies of the world we had to practice landing on the aircraft carrier at night. The airfield we used for practice was NAF Coupeville and it had been there for years. Countless who flew at Naval Air Facility Coupeville did not return from their deployments, to Vietnam, Iraq the Cold War and endless other hot spots. Over the years I had heard of the residents shinning spotlights into the cockpits and even rumors of gunfire as we flew our loud jets in the fleet carrier landing practice (FCLP) pattern.

One night when I was in the FCLP pattern a particularly “Patriotic” citizen was directing high powered spot lights into the cockpits attempting to blind the crews as we flew by in the dark night sky. After the second time of filling the cockpit with intense, disorienting illumination, I could only assume he was trying to make us crash. On the next pass I turned off my lights and dropped on top for a little hello; a coward as well he turned off the spot lights and fled.

My squadron, VAQ-135 Black Ravens, was preparing to deploy to Iraq for six months. Many of us had just returned from a cruise flying over Bosnia and Somalia. It was between the 1991 war and 911, thus the Sunshine Patriots were bored with the protection of freedom and couldn’t be put out by the noise of those who prepared, as always, to defend it. Even when it wasn’t in the news, popular or cool.

Some of the young Officers got agitated; they couldn’t believe it, they couldn’t believe we were so hated for trying to protect their very way of life. Later in the Ready Room they vented, “It is not our fault the idiots bought a house under an FCLP pattern!” For the Grey Beards who had gone through ROTC in the 70’s and been called names and spit on,(always when our backs were turned), it was nothing new. We were amused at the youngster’s righteous indignation, which made them even angrier.

We finally tried to calm them down; “Welcome to the real world boys and girls, if you wanted adulation you should have been a sports hero or rock star. The only time most people will appreciate you now is when they are frightened, once you do your job and they are not anymore. Well, then you are an inconvenience again, it is what it is.”

We had seen the cycle twice already in our careers, we were hated baby killers in the 70’s, until the Iranians took the embassy. Suddenly we were heroes, pats on the back all around, no doubt from the same individuals calling us names just a few days prior. President Carter was so embarrassed of the Military; he forbade us to wear uniforms in the Washington DC area. Happily, we were ignored through the rest of the Cold War. Things changed again when Sadam invaded Kuwait, but it didn’t last long and congress even flipped, attacking the military relentlessly through the 90’s. Retention suffered but many soldiered on. 911 saw the biggest out pouring of support with an attack on our own soil, citizens were scared and rightfully so, but even that has not been enough to prevent the cycle from occurring again as evidenced by the letters below.

Subject: A Wake Up Call From Luke AFB, AZ
Luke AFB is west of Phoenix and is rapidly being surrounded by civilization
that complains about the noise from the base and its planes, forgetting that
it was there long before they were.

A certain lieutenant colonel at Luke AFB deserves a big pat on the back.
Apparently, an individual who lives somewhere near Luke AFB wrote the local
paper complaining about a group of F-16s that disturbed his/her day at the
mall. When that individual read the response from a Luke AFB officer, it
must have stung quite a bit.

The complaint::

“Question of the day for Luke Air Force Base: Whom do we thank for the
morning air show? Last Wednesday, at precisely 9:11 a.m., a tight
formation of four F-16 jets made a low pass over Arrowhead Mall, continuing
west over Bell Road at approximately 500 feet. Imagine our good fortune!

Do the Tom Cruise-wannabes feel we need this wake-up call, or were they
trying to impress the cashiers at Mervyns early bird special? Any response
would be appreciated.”

The response:

Regarding “A wake-up call from Luke’s jets”: On June 15, at precisely 9:12
a.m, a perfectly timed four-ship flyby of F-16s from the 63rd Fighter
Squadron at Luke Air Force Base flew over the grave of Capt. Jeremy

Capt. Fresques was an Air Force officer who was previously stationed at Luke
Air Force Base and was killed in Iraq on May 30, Memorial Day. At 9 a.m. on
June 15, his family and friends gathered at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun
City to mourn the loss of a husband, son and friend.

Based on the letter writer’s recount of the flyby, and because of the jet
noise, I’m sure you didn’t hear the 21-gun salute, the playing of taps, or
my words to the widow and parents of Capt. Fresques as I gave them their
son’s flag on behalf of the President of the United States and all those
veterans and servicemen and women who understand the sacrifices they have
endured. A four-ship flyby is a display of respect the Air Force pays to
those who give their lives in defense of freedom. We are professional
aviators and take our jobs seriously, and on June 15 what the letter writer
witnessed was four officers lining up to pay their ultimate respects. The
letter writer asks, “Whom do we thank for the morning air show”? The 56th
Fighter Wing will call for you, and forward your thanks to the widow and
parents of Capt. Fresques, and thank them for you, for it was in their honor
that my pilots flew the most honorable formation of their lives.

Lt. Col. Scott Pleus
CO 63rd Fighter Squadron
Luke AFB


A picture of Jeremy.

The real Inconvenient Truth is that a Free Nation needs men and women not only willing to be “inconvenienced” but also willing to risk their lives and very souls to defend it. It is what it is.

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