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Saying goodbye to the Blues…

Posted by on July 11, 2016
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If you’re not patriotic, please leave. But for those of you who  love our Country, “Hold on tight. I’m going to take you for a ride you won’t soon forget.” 

NAVAL AIR STATION, PENSACOLA.  Naval Air Station, Pensacola is the only game in town. As employer and as home-away-from home to countless sailors of all ages, both enlisted men and officers, the United States Navy dominates the scene. It’s what the town of Pensacola is all about. And the real star of the show is the Navy’s Exhibition Flight Demonstration Team, the Blue Angels.  Or as everyone here calls them, “the Blues.” Old men, young men, boys and girls and kids of all ages are devoted to these guys, the Blue Angels. And the ladies are too. Really! This is the Angels’ home. And there’s not a man, woman or child in the city, including Greg Alford, who’s not keenly aware of it.

THE BLUE ANGELS: AN INSTITUTION. Keep one thing in mind as you read this post: “I don’t know any more about the Navy than you do.”  Well, maybe a little more, but only because my friend Captain Jon York lives right here in Pensacola. He’s been our guide and constant companion for the entire eight months we’ve lived in Pensacola. Jon’s a retired Navy Combat Pilot, and I’ve been “all ears” when he talks about the Navy and his experiences aboard ship and in the air! Anchors aweigh, my boys. Anchors aweigh!

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Anchors aweigh, my boys. Anchors away!

HERE’S MY TAKE ON IT. What I’ve perceived about the Blue Angels is that ‘the group of guys is more than just a group of guys.’ And it’s not just guys calling the shots. The women on the Angels’ team play as important a role as the others. The Blues are a collective, an institution bigger than any one of them. They’re short and tall, younger and older, some from the South and others from the North. But most of all they’re Americans, damn proud of this country and what it stands for. They parade their patriotism to groupies like me all season long. And we both love it. They do the flying and I do the cheering. But somehow we’re in it together. I’m positive the guys know it, too. They feel it as I do. I’ve never asked, but if I did I’d bet you a c-note that any of these heroes would agree. Is that a tear I spot in his eye as he shakes my hand? Can’t be. Or can it? We’re all in this together. Let’s put it together, America. We’re on the same side!

JETS SCREAMING ACROSS THE SKY. On almost a daily basis, I’ve gazed at the heavens and watched the Angels punctuate the horizon at dusk as they hone their skills in preparation for their next show in some distant city. From a distance, they’re as birds in silent flight. But now I watch from the tarmac and they sprint before leaping skyward, a deafening roar of unbridled power, I’m alone in the crowd and alone with my thoughts. I’m in the cockpit with the pilot in slot number 6. It’s just him and me and our love for America. Try it, you guys. You’ll like it. Dance like nobody’s watching. “And you’re right, Diane.” It doesn’t take long to get where you’re going. These guys fly to the venue of tomorrow’s show in no time flat, regardless of the distance.

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The Blues are ever-present in the skies above Pensacola Beach, Florida.

JUST ONE MORE THING. Just one thing remains before I crank the starter and stir our sleeping giant. One thing before I use my switch to coax her down the road to resume our Journey across America. First things first: I will pay tribute to an institution I’ve come to love, the Blue Angels. I’m now part of this town…and part of the team. No more but no less than those who’ve lived here a lifetime. Nobody’s keeping score. I’ve earned my spot on the roster and paid my dues by suffering the heat of a summer’s day Pensacola. “So listen up, gentlemen: I’ll miss you. I salute you. My prayers for you will continue as you mourn the loss of your teammate. But let’s dwell on the good times. Let’s remember the joy he brought to kids of all ages as he strutted his stuff in the sky. He’s gone but won’t ever be forgotten. You still see his smiling eyes, don’t you? Of course you do.

I SALUTE YOU.  Aviators will continue to come and go, as with the ebb and flow of the tide. But the Blue Angels will remain, just as the shore will never leave the tide. So my salute is for all of you and none of you. It’s for who you are and what you’ll learn as you continue to teach us about America. My salute is s genuine and heartfelt. Now I can turn the key in my ignition and continue to explore the nooks and crannies of our land. When I discover something remarkable, I’ll let you know. You’re not going anywhere. You’ll always be here. You’ll remain vigilant to protect me. You’ll miss weekends, birthdays and special occasions while you man your outpost. “It’s all part of the job,” you say. Well, that may be the case, but don’t for an instant forget that I’m with you even as I celebrate my special occasion from afar. You’re invited the celebration as always. And I know you’ll be here even though you’re there. You always are. I have no reason to believe things will be any different. I can rely on you because you’ve never let me down. And some things never change.

SAYING GOODBYE IS NEVER EASY.  

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I’ll continue my story next time.

3 Responses to Saying goodbye to the Blues…

  1. Greg Alford

    Come on, you guys! See how this works? I know you have thoughts and impressions because you send them to me every day by email. Well, I’ve made things easier for you, so you’ll be prompted to share more often and your thoughts will reach a far greater audience. Please…

  2. Susan B. Parnell

    Greg and Florence….Keep on soaring, and dancing and laughing and loving. A wonderful post and video tribute! Thank you. SuZz

  3. Greg Alford

    What kind words. We appreciate you!

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