Memorial Day Tribute For An American Hero Who Shaped My Life
AIR FORCE LT.COL A. L. “BUDDY” BARNER. (WGFP)
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY MEMORIAL SERVICE (click for images)
Five years ago tomorrow, we buried an American hero who shaped my life.
Lt. Col. A.L. “Buddy” Barner (World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot-Click for more) was a fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam, a test pilot between wars who accumulated six Distinguished Flying Crosses. And for his success in rescuing a squadron member under his command from a Mig ambush over North Vietnam, he won a Silver Star for bravery.
That was nothing short of a miracle because the North Vietnamese Migs were as faster and maneuverable as a Corvette compared with the pick-up-truck stolidness of the F-105 Thunderchief (“Thud”) jets that Buddy and his men were piloting on pinpoint bombing missions over North Vietnam.
There were, as you might imagine, a lot of pilots that didn’t survive long enough to celebrate the 100-missions ceremonies (below).
Buddy was my first cousin, but more like an uncle to me and I hung on to his every word and read and re-read every one of the infrequent letters he sent to me.
I’ll always remember being a little kid about five years old, standing outside my grandmother’s house in Itta Bena Mississippi in 1950-something, tearfully hugging him goodbye. I was holding an old mayonnaise jar I had cleaned for the occasion. When I cleared my tears, I handed him the jar and asked him to bring me a jar of clouds back next time.
Buddy shaped the scientific trajectory that turned me into a teenage rocket scientist that won a ton of awards from NASA and the Air Force and earned more awards at the International Science Fair. And he was the reason that I prevailed on my family’s considerable political clout and received an appointment to the Air Force Academy. (Flunked my physical – eyesight was not 20/20).
But that latter never dimmed my admiration for Buddy. He was a tough, talented, determined man with a long history of achievement, accomplishment.
I dedicated my 2003 thriller, Perfect Killer (click for more) to him. And wrote him into the book in a role that he enjoyed.
Five years later, Buddy died.
And that was almost exactly five years ago.
I’ve not shared this memorial site online before.