80: A True Blue Sky

80: A True Blue Sky

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

A True Blue Sky

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.

~John Maxwell

I inhaled the tropical scent as I slathered the bottle of suntan lotion on my youngest daughter. My husband tossed our sunglasses, beach chairs, sun umbrella, towels, and cooler on the back of his truck.

“Hurry up, kids,” I yelled to my older daughters. “We’re going to miss it.”

“Mom, it’s the beach, it will still be there when we get there,” my oldest, Alison, responded.

I smirked. Just wait, I thought to myself. You’ll see.

My family and my in-laws were visiting Fort Pickens in Pensacola Beach, Florida. We couldn’t wait to spend a relaxing week playing in the sun and making memories.

My fourteen-year-old son hopped on his bike. “I’ll race you to the beach!”

We unloaded the truck and set up camp in the sand as the kids raced to the water.

The waves rolled in and out as the calm chirping of the shore birds mingled perfectly with the low roar of the ocean on a perfect summer day.

I glanced down at my watch, secured my sunglasses and looked to the sky. It would only be a few more minutes until the show.

My sister-in-law smiled at me. She knew they were coming. I couldn’t wait to see the reaction on my eleven-year-old’s face. She would be thrilled.

Rumble. VAWHOOOSH!

The incredibly loud roar interrupted the peaceful beach scene.

Several clueless people on the beach looked up to examine the cloudless sky. Thunder?

I smiled. I knew what had created the thunderous sound.

“Hey guys, look up!” My husband pointed to the sky. Immediately our four children and niece obeyed.

Within seconds, four shiny, blue airplanes appeared out of nowhere in the radiant blue sky. Flying perfectly in sync with each other, the planes raced overhead. A few moments later, two additional planes joined them, flipping, soaring, and churning above us.

“WOW!” my son exclaimed.

“Kids, meet the Blue Angels!” I laughed, pointing my cell phone to the sky to capture a picture.

“Awesome!” my youngest, Abby, squealed with delight. “Did you see that?”

“I did. The Blue Angels are stationed here in Pensacola Beach. They are practicing their maneuvers,” I explained.

I loved watching the six McDonnell Douglas F/A 18 Hornet zoom past. The roaring sound, the pristine maneuvers, the precision and speed with which they moved was absolutely exhilarating. I am a devoted fan of our military and especially of military aircraft. As the daughter of an Air Force veteran, I grew up with a tremendous respect for our fighting forces. I got goose bumps as I watched the Blue Angels soar above.

Every single morning of our vacation, I would run outside at the first sound of their roaring engines. I would watch in awe as they dominated the sky above us.

I headed home from vacation with new memories and a profound respect for the Blue Angels. I would miss their daily show.

The summer months faded into fall and we returned to our normal school and work routines.

On October 30, 2015, I stood in my kitchen washing dishes when I heard a familiar roar. It couldn’t be…

I ran to my back deck to see two McDonnell Douglas F/A 18 Hornets zip above the pine trees in my own back yard. The Blue Angels were in town for the Great Georgia Air Show.

Later that morning, I was out shopping with my daughter when I received a text with a photo from a teacher friend at school.

“Look who is here,” he texted.

I glanced down to see a uniformed, young man in a blue jumpsuit. On his sleeve was an American flag. I quickly enlarged the photo. Printed across the young man’s back were two magical words, BLUE ANGELS, right here in our little town visiting our local high school.

“They are coming to our football game tonight,” Principal Allen texted me.

“Are you serious?”

As a member of our county’s local Board of Education, I rushed out to greet them.

“Welcome, we are honored to have you all here with us,” I gushed.

That night I stood on the sidelines watching our high school football game with three of the Blue Angel team members. It was America at its best: Friday night lights with the elite of our nation’s military.

Public Relations Officer Mike Lindsey of the Blue Angels offered me tickets to the air show the next morning. A child on Christmas morning couldn’t have been more excited.

The next afternoon, I stood only a few feet away from the six elite McDonnell Douglas F/A 18 Hornets which make up the flying team and the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules affectionately known as “Fat Albert.” I was in pure Blue Angel heaven for sure, making a human connection with these brilliant super-human “angels” from my summer vacation.

The pilots loaded their aircraft as the announcer named each team member, including pilots and all personnel. I listened intently as each name was called. They were from Sierra Leone, Ireland, and almost every state in the USA. What a diverse group of young men and women.

The engines roared to life, the crowd cheered, and the pilots offered a salute to the tower as they rolled past. Music blared across the loudspeakers, adding a new level of drama and excitement as the “Angels” zoomed down the runway. Each plane lifted into the air at exactly the same time. We sat mesmerized watching as the Blue Angels twisted, dove and spun through the sky.

As we glanced out at the familiar diamond shape of the four aircraft team, one of the solo planes crept up behind the crowd. We never even heard him coming until he was right on top of us!

I was in awe at the ability of our nation’s fighting force. With each twist and spin, my American pride grew. These “Angels” willingly risk their lives every day to serve our great nation. When they are not serving with the “Angels” they often fight in combat missions. The Blue Angel air show reminds us of this sacrifice.

As I watched the last plane safely return to the runway, I offered up a silent prayer for their safe return and a prayer of appreciation to these men and women who would soon return to their active field of duty.

We are free to live our dreams here in America, free to put our toes in the sand, free to frolic in the ocean, free to vacation with family, free to play football on Friday night, and free to attend public school, all because our military has and continues to defend that right for us.

Salute!

~Amy McCoy Dees

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