(Contact Info: larry at larryblakeley.com)
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A listing and access link to all:
song lyrics and mp3 audio files http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/ (all of which are a part of this Web site) can be accessed simply by selecting the "htm" file for the song you want;
quotations http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations.htm; and
essays written by Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/articles_larry_blakeley.htm,
all of which are used to tell the story in this Web site, can be accessed by going to each respective link set out above.
My son, Larry Blakeley http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/larryblakeley_photos_jpeg.htm manages this Web site.
Major Roy James Blakeley (December 10, 1928 - July 22, 1965) - USAF (KIA)
When I was young my dad would say
Come on son let's go out and play
No matter how hard I try
No matter how many tears I cry
No matter how many years go by
I still can't say goodbye
- "I Still Can't Say Goodbye," Performer: Chet Atkins
MP3 audio file/lyrics http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/still_cant_say_goodbye.htm
For a larger image click on the photograph.
It was most probably a fair day for flying. Why do I say that? Because the mission was to strafe in support of the ground troops and that requires low-level visual conditions. Why? Because you must be able to see your guys and their guys from your cockpit. This is not the "fly over and drop a bomb from 25,000 feet altitude" mission - no, this calls for traffic pattern altitude, and below. This calls for "seeing the enemy;" - seeing who had ambushed your fellow American - someone's son, broth, or father, possibly. And, our guys were being "cut up" pretty bad.
And, then descending, descending ... at great speed, with focused attention - with the sights of your gunnery focused in on the enemy - the enemy trying to kill your fellow American - no radar lock-in, no heat seeking missiles, just your eyes, your gun, your target, and the courage to answer the call for "AIR."
That's the task at hand. And, if you miss, then you kill your own Americans. So, this requires going down, down, down, low to the ground - headed almost straight to earth in order to have the visibility from this tiny cockpit window to see your guys and see their guys - your target on the ground below - you have to be nearly vertical to the ground - perpendicular the surface of the earth.
And, that's what my father described that he had done on July 15, 1965 in his many letters http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/major_roy_james_blakeley2.htm. That engagement was described in his own handwriting, over and over, - an "outstanding mission."
My father had been a military pilot since receiving his Primary Pilot Training, Certificate of Proficiency issued by the Air Training Command at Stallings Air Base, Kinston, North Carolina, May 8, 1953 here. http://www.royblakeley.name/proficiency_certificate19530508.djvu and you can bet your bottom dollar if he called it "outstanding;" then it was.
I mean he did win a "Top Gun" award just a little over 12-months prior to July 15, 1965, on March 10, 1964 - a "turkey shoot" of the entire 479th Fighter Wing http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/top_gun19640310.djvu and he had been a jet fighter pilot long enough to know what an "outstanding mission" was.
(Note: this information is taken from the Web page http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/major_roy_james_blakeley.htm)
- Don't be fooled by the fact that he never received any medals for this engagement into the zone of death; and
- Don't be fooled by the fact that others are still walking the streets of America today that have received many more medals for deeds of lesser courage than my father's engagement with the enemy on July 15 1965; and
- Don't be fooled by the fact that you have never heard of Major Roy James Blakeley - and, possibly thinking to yourself that he was just another soldier - just another Vietnam fatality, leaving another family behind in the United States to pick up the pieces and carry-on, like Americans are supposed to do.
We are a strong country, with a rich history, and we have ancestors that have carried on in the face of calamity, loss of loved ones, and other hardships of life. And, these folks are whom I write about in my article, "A Message to the Common, Ordinary, American Man," Larry Blakeley, October 10, 2004 http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/common_ordinary_american_man.htm.
And, that is just what the family of Major Roy James Blakeley had to do - and, have done for nearly 40 years, now. But, don't even think that the hurt, pain, and devastation is not still felt to this very day. Sure, at times, we have buried it, covered it up, "numbed" up the memories in order to survive, and carry on. We had to. This is what my father would have wanted. This is what other Americans expect of their fellow - fallen souls.
But, as God is my witness, let me tell you it is "damn" difficult, and that difficulty for me is what is described in my article, "Where Do I Start?," Larry Blakeley, October 20, 2004 http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/where_to_start.htm - a story about "how" to survive pain, despair, hopelessness, and the darkness of the throes of life's hardships.
But, I am getting ahead of the story because this part is about "what was he thinking about?"
So, what do I believe he was thinking about as he was scooting down that make-shift aluminum-slated runway - a portable, make-shift runway of sorts, intended for carrier-landing and takeoff operations (for landing there was an "arresting device" in place, and for take-off = an explosive device for catapulting the jet aircraft into the air). My father's final landing - at the Chu Lai Airfield, Republic of South Vietnam on July 22, 1965, possibly, after the same type of engagement as July 15, 1965, a mission for that fateful morning that he volunteered to take the place of his fellow pilot, Captain Harris http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/chu_lai_airfield.htm - my father's final mission in life to help others in need, a man of goodness, that he expressed as his purpose beginning at the ripe, young age of 17 - a country boy, at heart, just writing to his mother while sitting on that "little fella" - a Navy vessel harbored at San Diego, California - "Dear Mom, Well here this little fellow is again ...; and his love for his mother, ."... By the way george I can use that sugar too. You know what I mean," as I love my mother - bless her sweet soul of strength.
A man that I have become over the years of my personal struggles with demons of the spirit.
.".. Mother I think more or you than any person in this whole world. I now wish that I had never said anything to hurt your feelings. Here a person can think of what all the good things he could have been doing for someone he loves like you Mom...." http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19460124.htm
And, what does the Web page on Chu Lai describe? Well, the Marines needed a runway, and they needed it - fast - so, they used interlocking aluminum slats to construct a temporary, portable runway for their needs. These slaps were delivered by sea-faring vessel - and, most, probably, a Naval vessel - another "little fella" bringing these slats for my father to make his last landing. And, the Marines needed a spot that was accessible to the ocean and close to its land operations in the southern portion of Vietnam. Chu Lai was most importantly a location that had a hospital - where the casualties were transported to - it had doctors, nurses, and medics there. All of them there to tend to put back together the wounded, and, at times, lay the dead in the dreaded stock United States coffin that transport them back to the United States - home to their families and friends, to be buried - just, as my father was prophetically speaking of in his letter to his parents:
.".. I flew 9,300 miles and 12 inflight refuelings getting here. Landed 3 times in route. My tail was really sore. Ha - think I will ride a transport back & sleep all the way..." - http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650705.htm
(Note: for a quick journey to view all of his letters from Vietnam go here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/major_roy_james_blakeley2.htm)
And, my father was headed straight for this airfield called "Chu Lai," his intermediate stop on the way back to his family here in the United States.
Maybe, maybe he was headed for family, a cousin of his he had met over there and had lunch with just days prior:
.".. I also met a 2nd cousin or something like that. He is our flight surgeon. His Dad's brother is married to Lella. You know the one at Gilmer. It was really coincidental. He said he was from Texas and I asked him where in Texas & he said Gilmer & I noticed his last name was Brawley..." http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650718.htm
- a cousin from the oil-rich country of East Texas - near the town of Joinerville http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/joinerville_texas.htm;
or, possibly, it was because he wanted his family to have some closure - knowing that he was in "good hands," and "at peace" with his God;
or, maybe it was because that aircraft of his was telling him to put the "little fella" down, and do it quick, or "I'm going to come apart between your legs."
None of us will ever know, but there is one thing for sure - he did put it down, gently, onto those aluminum interlocking slats for the bumpy ride to wherever his God wanted from him - after gently touching the "The Belly of the Ship" lightly on the surface of his road, sliding down his path, his fate in life - from that point forward - a soul of goodness in the hands of his God.
It was a 8,000 foot runway - he touched down approximately 1,000 feet down the runway and slid, slid, and kept sliding - out of his control - an aircraft turned into a uncontrollable piece of turbine engine shrouded with some panels of aluminum ... and yet, still sliding, possibly spinning on its belly (gear-up) - "just along for the ride in this 'Belly of the Ship' http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/belly_of_ship.htm" - a ship of despair, hopelessness, pain, hurt, and ultimate death,
.".. Coming down is the hardest thing
Well, the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn
I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing" - "Learning to Fly," Tom Petty
MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/learning_to_fly.htm
but in these precious last seconds of his life - "hope" appeared in the heart and soul of my father; for this I know, because the Bible told me so, ever since I was a little boy.
My father - a man of unquestionable faith in his Lord as the son of God - became a "rider," a driver no more. No, he became a sacrifice - sitting there with his legs strapped around that turbine engine - just to let his God take over the controls, and do what he must with my father.
And, according to the Morning Report Casualty Accounting Report http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/morning_report_casualty_accounting19650722.djvu my father slid along with that turbine engine for approximately 1,000 feet before it exited on a course that was not his choosing.
So, for this 1,800 feet he had to be thinking about something; and, what on earth could it have been?
Why would he be thinking of something? Because he had the time to do so, he had no control over his destiny anymore - he knew it - a man that had taken hold of the reins of life and made the best of it in his 36 years walking on this great earth - and, he knew it - he knew it was time - time to speak to his maker and tell him a few things before this "little fellow" gave his life on earth up. He truly lived his life everyday, always a fan by example - a testament that many others can vouch for - and, I like to envision him feeling the same way about the eloquent themes of hope and praise in the verses of this sweet song, "Morning Has Broken," MP3 audio file/lyrics at http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/songs/morning_has_broken.htm .
But, now he was a military man first, in a war that he did not understand, under conditions that appeared questionable:
"July 5, 1965
Dear Mom & Dad,
Well here I am in Vietnam. The name of the base is Da Nang... The people are a poor tired looking lot. Wish there was some way we could get out of this & get some face..." - http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650705.htm
- sitting writing a letter to his parents in the middle of a "hell-hole" of hopelessness.
And, he knew fully well the dangers:
.".. Some of the guys have gone swimming at the beach. Not me, I won't even go into town. Ha. Someone threw an hand grenade in a café downtown the other day & killed 2 Marines. We have nite artillery shells going off here every nite. The Viet Cong are pretty well surrounding the base from about 10 miles out. I wear a 38 pistol everywhere I go..." - http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650719.htm
And, he knew he might not come home:
.".. Of course there is always the fear of getting shot down but that's the fortune of war. We have been doing air to ground for the last two weeks & wish we would switch to escort for a while. It's hell of a lot safer!!... - http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650718.htm
The way my father lived his life, everyday is a fact about him that can be verified by many still alive (if I can just locate them) that he walked with on this planet earth; and, after 39 years, now - some are dead, and gone, to their greater reward.
But, you can view the letters of sympathy on this Web site:
, you can read his letters, and you can remember my accountings of those men of flight, lowering themselves from cruising altitude, descending, descending, thousands upon thousands of feet, to the earth, and lining themselves level to the surface of the earth, and absolutely "screaming" over the top of a lonely house out in the middle of a sleepy West Texas community. And, every time they did that - I had my answer to the question of "what did he mean to his friends?" I never questioned it. Maybe my father had told them that I used to love air shows as a kid, maybe they just wanted to express themselves in the way they knew best, or possibly they just wanted to pay respects, again. Whatever their reasons it left me with a feeling of being "proud of my father" for who he was to me, who he was to his friends, and who he was to his family.
I believe I know what he was thinking about. But, there may be some folks in his family that may be a little concerned what I might write about here. Why is that? Because I have already disclosed in writing the following in my article, "Where Do I Start?," Larry Blakeley, October 20, 2004 ....
"Well, I still remember the preacher, Billy Hudnall saying to me, 'it's god's wish, he has other plans for your father.' And, I would just politely nod, and think to myself - this man of god is 'full of shit.'" http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/where_to_start.htm
Well, let me go over with the reader why that statement is "putting myself out there" for an occasional look of concern from those that are a part of my life, my wife's life, my Mother's life, my daughters' lives, my son's life, my sisters' lives, and my aunts, uncles, cousins, and, on down the tree of my family relationships.
But, first let's re-visit the historical context of this event in my life. It was 39 years ago, for heaven's sake - I was an 11-year old boy that had just lost my best friend in the whole wide world, someone that meant more to me then than God himself - and, the preacher is telling me that he took him away from me. No way am I buying into that story. Not then.
But, you see, my father and his family; my mother and her family - all of them, are followers of the teachings of the Lord, Jesus Christ - they believe in his teachings with all their hearts and souls. They believe that their everlasting life is "through the grace of God."
They not only believe it, but they preach it. There are several ministers of this faith in my family.
And, to add to that my daughter, Lori, attended a school supported by one of the most powerful (and, possibly, the most powerful) Baptist churches of the south - The First Baptist Church of Dallas Texas - a school that The First Baptist Church built and supports - The First Baptist Academy, sitting just several steps from the entrance to their church; and, my son, Evan, is attending Cistercian Preparatory School - a faith-based Catholic, all-boys, school located alongside of Highway 114, just north of the "old" Irving, Texas proper, nestled in harmony with the oak and mesquite shrouded, rolling hills of the Las Colinas area (an area that was just pasture land 35 years ago). And, this school's promises are put down in writing, promises that caught me eye, and confirmed my choice of placing Evan there - http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/cistercian_promise.htm
But, most importantly - my life is based on "truth," this Web site is based on "truth," my father's life and my Granddad Ashton's life were lived with "truth," and this story of my father's life, as well as my Granddad Ashton's life - who continued on with me from a boy to a man, as my father would have expected of him - is a story of truth, love, and strength of "good character - goodness" towards others - their Bibles told them so. These basic building blocks of character that was passed on from the heart and souls of my father and my Granddad Ashton will never be compromised by me. What good would it do for "me" - my soul, my heart, my conscious being - to lie, to deceive someone else? I could do that all day long, if I wanted to, and get away with it - easily. But, within this skin of mine is a heart, a soul, and a brain that I live with - it's mine, it's me, and I walk alongside it every single day of my life. It's from within myself that I do these things, not because I know "it's the right thing to do." I chose to be truthful. And, I believe - no matter whether you believe in Jesus Christ, as the son of God, the way - there can be no denying the power of these words recorded in the new testament of all King James versions of The Holy Bible (1611) - an addition to the word of God that chronicles the teachings of his son, Jesus Christ, as follows when Jesus spoke to his disciples, knowing, at the time, of his own death:
16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
- Jesus, the gospel according to Saint Matthew, King James Bible Stories, Classic Literature Library. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/quotations/matthew_gospel_ch16_vs15-28.htm
It's that "something" that makes a person - a man. It's everywhere, but yet nowhere. You feel it, but can't really touch it. It's your soul shrouded in skin that will return some day to the dust of the earth from whence it came.
But, this story is not about "what I was thinking about," but rather "what was he thinking about?" I know what I was thinking about because I knew where I was at 10:34 AM, Vietnam time - I was having a ball of my life at the annual State Fair of Texas in Dallas, Texas - thanks to my Aunt Valarie Owen. Why, do I thank her? Because she made sure that I got to go with my cousins, John Wayne McCuistion (son of Wayne and Doris (Ashton) McCuistion) and Jim Owen (son of Don Owen and Valarie Owen). Both of them were 4 - 5 years older than me, so they may have had other ideas about my attendance with them to the fair. But, always the "listening type" - and, possibly to this day, my dear Aunt Val may not know that I know what she told her son in the hallway of her home over 39 years ago - "you're taking him with you." And, so he did.
And, after we came home - I drifted off into sleep with a smile on my face:
."....And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadows on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!" - "The Raven," Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven and Other Tales, A Glassbook Classic.
"Larry, wake up ....."
"Larry, wake up ....."
"Larry, wake up ....."
"there's some bad news about your father"
Life can forever change in one awakening - mine did. http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/remains_returned_funeral_burial.htm
So, what was he thinking about?"
I believe with all my heart that my father was reciting words of prayer that would have been easiest to remember in a time of extreme stress, such as what he was faced with at that time. And, being a seasoned fighter pilot, he had demonstrated many times over the years that he could think straight under extreme stress. I also believe that his words were from his bible - the bible he had brought with him, the bible that his mother had given to him many, many years ago, and the bible that he promised his parents that he would read, as often as he could, as he referred to in his letter to them dated July 5, 1965
"July 5, 1965, Dear Mom & Dad, .... Brought my bible which you gave me in 1940. Will read it as often as I can....." - http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/letter_rblakeley19650705.htm
There it is - in his own handwriting - the "truth" - he tells of what book he was reading over there.
And, I believe that my father made the best use of these precious few seconds of his life here on earth; knew it was time to turn the reins over to a higher being; and, reached for the easiest, but, quite possibly one of the most beautiful prayers to recite in His entire book.
Now, I know fully well, that there are arguments amongst the scholars of the Christian faith about numerous recitations of verses in different Biblical translations of the original word - 7 of the most common versions, being as follows:
NI New International Version
NAS New American Standard Version
NKJ New King James Version
RS Revised Standard Version
NRS New Revised Standard Version
LB The Living Bible
NC New Century Version
But, the bible my father had with him (and, there is an image file of it here http://www.royblakeley.name/roy_james_blakeley/Extra_Photographs/bible_inside.djvu) was the King James Version. And, for his needs at the time, suited him just fine, I'm sure. In fact, it's right here next to me, as I am writing this article - tattered, but still intact.
And, there is no question whatsoever in my heart, that he believed the following basic premise for his existence here on mother earth (see http://www.royblakeley.name/thief_in_the_night.htm for further study):
.".. For those who believe that the Bible is the truth and is the very word of God ...
Hebrews 11:5 'By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because god had taken him away. for before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.' and without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Many Christians will read about the rapture of the Church which will occur before the tribulation and respond with 'It's too good to be true!' or 'I don't deserve to be saved from the wrath to come.' We often overlook, however, that trials and tribulations are a standard part of everyday life in a fallen world. 'But our Lord specifically informed us that the tribulation is a special judgment of God.' It is for our sake that these days will be shortened for us. 'This escape from wrath is not based on merit, but on what the Bible says. 'God deals with us on a basis of grace when we accept him as our savior, and this basis extends itself to the tribulation. 'We should celebrate the saving grace of Christ.' Let the joy that fills your soul at the mention of His return show in your life.' Let it be an example that draws others in. Then tell everyone you know the reason for the hope that is within you so that they too may look to the future with excitement, hope and confidence, and you will see them in your Fathers house at that great time of reunion and rejoicing.
- "Like a Thief in the Night - The Rapture of God's Church," Jennifer Rast, Contender Ministries http://www.royblakeley.name/thief_in_the_night.htm
And, I truly believe with all my heart, and all my soul, that this is "what he was thinking about" in those precious few seconds - the same simple prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples just shortly before his demise here on earth:
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
And, this prayer was just short enough for my father to fit in, while sliding those 1,800 feet; but, yet powerful enough to soothe my father's precious soul, his final conversation to his Lord and God before being lifted up into His kingdom of Heaven.
And, then he was gone.
And, that is "what he was thinking about."
And, now, I'm tired, emotionally and physically because it's still hard for me to do this, even after all these years of practice:
.".. the pain, is sort of like "rubbing your stomach, while patting your head" - it's just very difficult to do - and, then pile on the "crying" inside at the same time - and, your plate is unquestionably - full... - - "Where Do I Start?," Larry Blakeley, October 20, 2004. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/where_to_start.htm
- and, now I need to rest, a bit; another job, well done; and, I need to rest in order to gather the strength that two men in my life showed to me, my father - Roy James Blakeley, and my grandfather, John Lewis Ashton; and, then carry on, again - continue on with my mission of my life:
.". I left the Marriott’s Denver City Center hotel in a blue Super Shuttle extra long-bed van, positioned myself in a seat position next to the window, feeling a little tired, rested my head against the glass, closed my eyes, and tried to just rest there for awhile... - - "The Belly of the Ship," Larry Blakeley - Author and Publisher, September 20, 2004. http://www.royblakeley.name/larry_blakeley/articles/belly_of_ship.htm
- "What was he thinking about?," Larry Blakeley, October 28, 2004.