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We three young kids stood in our socks on Grandpa Andy’s hood waving at ever airliner coming in and go out of Los Angeles International Airport. Pan American Boeing 707’s and Delta Airlines Douglas DC-8s passed one hundred fifty feet over our heads. One American 707 Captain opened his cockpit window and waved before taking off.
At five years old I knew my purpose in life was to fly airplanes, but many told me I’d never make it.
One Elementary School teacher said in front of the entire class “You are the dumbest boy! You’ll never fly planes!” Teachers and councilors said my math and science scores were low, which piloting airplanes requires. Fed up hearing about never flying, I told one particularly nasty teacher “Not only will I fly, I’m going to be an Air Force pilot!”
If you hear the lie long enough though you begin to believe it.
A World War II fighter pilot next door intervened and I’m so grateful he did. Telling him one night how my teachers said I wasn’t smart enough to fly, Colonel Ed Reinhart looked at me and said “Don’t believe anything they tell you! I was told the same thing in school and flew P-47 Thunderbolts all over Europe. If you want it bad enough you will do whatever it takes to be a pilot.”
I spent thousands of hours studying airplanes from then on. Graduating from Brigham Young University, I went straight to Air Force pilot training, graduating with silver wings pinned on my chest. For over twenty-four years and four wars, I passed gas for a living from Boeing KC-135s, the military version of the 707 jetliner.
I’ve traveled all over the world at 28,000 feet with a belly full of gas on 30 minutes notice in the Stratotanker, the Air Force’s airborne gas station. As the Chief Operating Officer for all air refueling operations in the Middle East during 2002 to 2003, my team of thirty US and international refueling experts transferred enough jet fuel to keep a 737-airliner airborne for 11.9 years, or make 2685 round trips to the moon in a Ford F-150 truck.
I’m so thankful for Colonel Reinhart keeping me focused on my dream of being a pilot. Don’t let people tell you it’s impossible. I’m living proof you can do the impossible. If you can see it in your mind you can do it!