By Dick Platt
Corsicana Daily Sun
That’s right — I have a new mug shot to go at the top of my weekly rants. I thought I had better update it to show my more sensitive side. Besides, I was a bit weary of my “friends” telling me the old one looked like something from a police lineup.
I have received several favorable e-mails acknowledging the change and one cute Facebook comment on the Sun’s homepage by the venerable Ron Morgan that read, “I thought Raymond had dug up a new columnist until I realized it was just a glamor shot of Dick.” Did anyone ever notice that, in Ron’s mug shot, he is sporting a huge guilty looking grin like he is the guy who broke wind in the crowded elevator?
I have also received a couple questions about the insignia on the cap I am wearing and, for the benefit of the uninitiated masses, I shall explain. This is absolutely my favorite cap out of the 50 or so I have left after our move because it represents the pinnacle of an Air Force career with a duration of 27 years, three months, and 16 days.
The insignia represents the rank of E-9, Chief Master Sergeant — the highest rank attainable within the enlisted grades. It is a unique and elite rank as E-9s are limited by law to only 1 percent of the enlisted population of each service. My fondest photograph from my long career in the Air Force is one of Major General Pringle pinning those chevrons on me at Lowry AFB, Colorado, while The Good Wife and our son, Curt, stood by my side.
It certainly is a rank I never thought I would attain as it took me almost 10 years to make Staff Sergeant (E-5) in a career field that was over-staffed and frozen for promotion. Who knew that, nine years later, I would appear on the Chief selection list. In gambler’s parlance, I really “doubled up to catch up.”
Back to the insignia on the cap. It is really very simple but emblematic. The chevron, of course, is the eight-striped E-9 rank insignia. The Native-American Chief emblem super-imposed over the chevron is the obvious choice to denote Chief Master Sergeant. Chiefs are a very clannish group and we live by the motto, “Once a Chief, always a Chief!” In that regard, I am still a member of the “Colorado E-9ers Association.”
While I am waxing nostalgic, I thought I would quote from a poem entitled “Military Retirement,” which was written by an old and dear friend, the late Chief Master Sergeant Hardy Abbot. Hardy was a gentle soul who wrote many poems about military life including a very poignant one about Viet Nam POW/MIAs entitled “The Loneliest Prayer.” His profuse writings earned him the title of “Poet Laureate” of the Air Force Sergeants Association. I have this poem on a plague presented to me at my retirement in 1985 by two of my favorite fellow Chiefs, Rex McAtee and Hans Bierwagen.
As I recall the months and years,
And all the places I have been
The many friends of every breed
Who have touched my soul with marks
That time can not erase;
I realize no other life would have done for me,
Not fame, nor gold could be so dear
As the voices of my friends of yesteryear.
Their faces embedded in my mind’s eye
Are still so clear to see.
Their acts of love for one another
Still haunt my memory,
I tried to serve as best I could,
To really be a part
Of what I know beats loud and hard
In every service heart.
The time has come for me to change
To a different way of life.
To fold away a uniform that is a part of me.
And now I can but recall the months and years,
And all the places I have been,
The many friends of every breed
Who have touched my soul with marks that
Time can not erase.
For nothing else is left, but memories.
Dick Platt is a Daily Sun columnist. His column appears on Tuesdays. Want to “Soundoff” on this column? Email: email@example.com