Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Old Friend and San Miguel Dark

I was thinking of people I've known during my career as a helicopter pilot, and memories of Wally popped up. When I met Wally, he was flying a Sikorsky S-58T helicopter on a firefighting contract out of Hunter-Liggett Army Airfield in California. I was the OIC (officer in charge) of my unit's then-small detachment there. I was a young warrant officer then, but I got the job because the unit was short of captains.

Wally was a retired Marine. He may have had a bushy gray beard, but by George, he was still a Marine. If you've worked with Marines before, you know that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine.

Wally had been one of a select few enlisted aviators in the Marines. He later became a warrant officer, and retired as a captain. He flew a tour in Korea, and three in Vietnam.

Wally had lots of advice about flying, women, and life. Wally had lots of stories about flying, women, and life. One woman had stolen his heart, and it was evident that the lost love of his life had stamped his soul more than the four combat tours he'd survived, or the three divorces he'd endured. He would never tell me her name.

Wally had a favorite beer: San Miguel Dark. A couple of days ago, I noticed that Trader Joe's had San Miguel Dark on its shelves. I took a six pack home. I had a couple that night, and thought of Wally, the colorful Marine with a wounded heart. I met him in the summer of 1978. I wonder if he's still walking this earth.

If not, I hope he's once again with his love, and I hope she likes San Miguel Dark.