Tuesday, April 5, 2016

1963- Chapter 7- I Was Blind But Now I See

  During the time that I was at Erhac most Security Police were getting orders for Ellsworth AFB South Dakota. Malmstrom AFB Montana. Minot and Grand Forks North Dakota. These were all SAC (Strategic Air Command) bases. It was the Cold War and if you were an SP you were either going to hump B-52 bombers or guard ICBM missile silo's. Winters in the Dakota's and Montana are brutal. Temperatures can go as low as twenty below and the wind chill factor even lower. At Lackland, Kingsley, and Erhac I was always given a (dream sheet). You were allowed to make three choices of bases that you would like to be stationed at. I would usually choose bases where the weather was warm. Patrick AFB in Florida and Hickam AFB in Hawaii for example. Early on I picked Sewart in Smyrna until I learned that the base was going to be closed. At Erhac my third choice was Peterson Field in Colorado Springs. This was because a friend had been stationed there and told me how much he enjoyed it. I never expected to actually get any of my choices. To my surprise and delight, I received orders for N.O.R.A.D. or North American Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs. Even though I didn't get my warm climate I was excited about going there. Everyone was envious of my orders since they all ended up going to SAC bases. 

  In the last few weeks at Erhac Debbie was writing me about my brother Mark. I was lucky in that I only had to live on McKennie Avenue for six years until I was out on my own. Mark was ten days short of his eighth birthday when my parents died and had no way out of the dysfunctional situation that he was living in. He was now sixteen years old. My Aunt Tincy was a drunk bitch and living with Didi. She was terrorizing her and everyone else. One morning Tincy had Didi down and was beating her. Mark used his fists to knock her off. He was spending a lot of time at Aunt Viola's farm out on Two Mile Pike in Goodlettsville. She had a way of prying information out of you. One thing led to another and Aunt Viola applied through the court for custody of Mark. Because of circumstances beyond his control he was caught in the middle. Aunt Viola was granted custody after he told the judge, on the stand, that he wanted to live with her. Didi was understandably hurt and devastated. I felt helpless reading about this in Turkey. Over time I came to a big decision. I decided to ask Mark if he would like to go with us to Colorado. That is if Aunt Viola would agree to it, I was eligible to become his legal guardian since I had reached the age of 21. Debbie was agreeable to the idea and so was Mark. I wrote Aunt Viola and she agreed to turn over custody to me. Our family had been devastated by our parents death and because of my own immaturity and focus on my own life I had not been the brother to Mark that I should have been. I felt guilty about that and wanted to try to make it up to him. I only had a 30 day leave. We would need most of it to find a place to live in Colorado Springs so I could only spend a few days in Nashville. I immediately set about working out the details for gaining custody of Mark. Aunt Viola, Mark and myself  went to court and the judge asked us a few questions. Just like that I became Mark's guardian.

  For the first time since I had been in the Air Force I was actually excited about going to my new duty station. I was making more money now and I had a decent car for a change. We still had our 1964 Impala. I rented a U-Haul trailer and our car was packed to the gills. It was a two day trip by car and the weather was extremely hot. The interstate wasn't completed between Nashville and St. Louis. I took the Pennyrile Parkway up to Vincennes Indiana and then it was interstate for much of the way into Colorado Springs. We made it as far as Columbia Missouri on the first day. On the second day we were on the road very early and by noon the temperature was well into the high 90's. I started hearing a hissing noise coming from the rear of my car. After pulling over on the shoulder I realized that the noise was coming from my gas cap. I pulled into a gas station that was next door to a motel in Marshall Missouri. This proved to be a live and learn moment. The mechanic took full advantage of my fears and before I left there he had replaced about 4 or five things that I am sure now that I didn't need. Conveniently he owned the motel and we stayed there until the car was ready the next morning. Between the motel bill and repairs I paid him about 500.00 dollars which was a lot of money in those days. Repairs that I am not sure were even made. It reminded me of the scene in the movie Vacation with Chevy Chase. I determined pretty quickly that since we were pulling a heavy load the car simply overheated. If I had pulled over for a little while we would have been fine. As Dave Ramsey might say I paid a stupid tax that day. As we neared Colorado Springs Debbie and Mark began to complain. So far they had not been impressed. They asked "Where are you taking us?" Soon we were entering the outskirts of Colorado Springs and rising up before us was the snow capped Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains. The mood in the car changed immediately from dread to excitement. From that moment until I was discharged nearly one year later we felt like we were on vacation. This, without a doubt, was the happiest year of our life. We found a motel near downtown and I immediately set about finding a place to live. It was  a place centrally located. At that time there were five military installations in Colorado Springs. The Air Force Academy, Ent AFB, which is where I processed into NORAD and where my records were kept, Peterson Field AFB, Ft. Carson, and N.O.R.A.D in Cheyenne Mountain. We rented a nice apartment that was part of a quadplex. Two apartments downstairs and two upstairs. We were in an upstairs apartment that had two bedrooms, a kitchen, bath, and living room. Our landlord was a very nice real estate man named Mr. Embree. One feature that I loved about this apartment was that you could look straight out of our kitchen window and see Pikes Peak. There was a ton of stuff to do and see in Colorado Springs. We went to Cave of the Winds, the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, Manitou Springs, which reminds me of Gatlinburg, Garden of the Gods, and Seven Falls. Unknown to us at the time, Debbie was pregnant with my daughter Misty. There was a very steep stairway that paralleled the falls. She climbed to the top of Seven Falls which was very high and difficult. In retrospect this was not a good idea for a woman carrying a baby. She had a very difficult early pregnancy. The doctor put her to bed for several weeks and she was very sick. I thought that she might lose the baby after we found out she was pregnant. Mark and I did a poor job of taking care of the house. During this time I was not getting paid. I hand carried my pay records to Kingsley Field and to Turkey. As a result I never had a pay problem until I reached NORAD. For some reason they didn't give me that option when I processed out at Erhac. My pay records were lost and for six months I didn't receive a paycheck. I don't know what we would have done without Debbie's allotment check and Mark's social security check.
Pikes Peak

Manitou Springs
Rob & me at the Garden of the Gods in 2012

Seven Falls

Seven Falls

Seven Falls at night
Manitou Cliff Dwellings

Our visit to the Cliff Dwellings in 2012

Cave of the Winds

Cave of the Wind

  I was blown away by my new duty assignment at N.O.R.A.D. It was headquartered in Cheyenne Mountain. Looking at Pikes Peak from the east you can easily see Cheyenne Mountain off in the distance on the left of the mountain. Construction of the mountain complex was supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers beginning on May 18, 1961. The Space Defense Center and the Combat Operations Center were fully operational on February 6, 1967 and the cost of the complex was $142.4 million. It was built under 2,000 ft. of granite comprising five acres. In order to get to work I had to drive each day up a long winding two lane road to a parking lot that was in front of a large building that housed the Security Police. This is where our armory, training and administrative offices were. Each day we would check the duty roster to see who was posted inside the mountain and who was posted outside of the mountain. The Flight Chief stayed outside and only went into the mountain to eat at the chow hall or to do an occasional post check. At the beginning of each shift we would have a guardmount. Here we would get a safety briefing and pass on any pertinent information. The Flight Chief would inspect us and our uniforms had to be sharp because we were surrounded by brass. In the summer we wore 1505 khaki's with spit shined low quarter shoes and our service hats with a white cover. Since our posts were in a cave and steel buldings we were armed with .38 revolvers. Our service belt was blue with a large shiny silver buckle. Our winter uniforms looked even better. We wore blue dress pants with a dark blue long sleeved shirt with a white ascot. Our spit shined boots were bloused with white parachute cord that were ladder laced. After guardmount, those of us who were working inside the mountain, would board the bus. On the north end of the building was a room with turnstiles . There we had an exchange badge system. When a person walked into the turnstiles they would hand a colored line badge to the SP behind the counter and he would exchange that badge for a different colored badge. They would then board a blue AF bus. When the bus was full it would drive into a large tunnel entrance in the side of the mountain. It was one mile from the entrance of the tunnel to the blast doors. The bus would back into a parking space in front of the doors where the passengers would disembark. There a Security Policeman stood post by the outer door. Another Security Policeman operated the doors at a post just inside the inner door. The SP monitored two black and white T.V.'s on which he could see what was going on in front of the outside door and between the doors. The outside door would slowly open as a buzzer sounded and a light flashed. After everyone was on the inside that door would slowly close. After the door closed, steel pins slid into holes on either side of the door. When the pins were secured, the SP on the inside would then open the inner door. Everyone would walk into a huge man made cave. There was a group usually waiting to leave by then. They would walk inside the doors and the process would be reversed.
Cheyenne Mountain

Lower entrance Cheyenne Mountain access road

Access road to NORAD

Aerial view of the parking lot in front of the tunnel

One of my tunnel pictures in 1972

Modern day picture of the tunnel

A 1971 picture of the inside of the tunnel

The outside blast door and SP post

Construction of NORAD in the 1960's

Me checking the barbers line badge in 1971 on the inside door

In my winter uniform with Robbie on 11-13-1971

  Out of a group of six Security Policemen a man would be posted at the outer door and one at the inner door. From there the remaining four of us would walk into the inner tunnel where before us was the entrance the steel buildings that made up the NORAD complex. A man would be posted in CSC or (Central Security Control) and the remaining three would become the SAT or (Security Alert Team). On most air bases the SAT was mobile but because of the nature of our duty at NORAD, we were on foot. Upon arrival at NORAD I was still an E-4. After a few weeks I was promoted to E-5 or SSgt. As an E-4 I worked on the permanent day shift while I trained. There was a permanent day shift, swing shift, and midnight shift. Then there was a rotational shift that relieved the other three shifts for their 72 hour breaks. After my promotion I was quickly trained to become the security escort for General Seth McKee, CINC NORAD, and a Canadian general that was Vice Cinc. General McKee was an American Air Force 4 star general and the Canadian was a 3 star general. I would also be responsible for any VIP's visiting the complex along with the many public groups that routinely toured the mountain. After training I was transferred to the relief Flight. There I became responsible for the men on the inside of the mountain. I was permanent SAT leader and I provided break relief for all of the men inside of the mountain. The day shift was usually the busiest for me. This is when the Cinc and Vice Cinc were the likeliest to visit the complex. Many times they would bring along VIP's. Just before I was stationed at NORAD John Wayne visited the complex. He was in Colorado making the movie (The Cowboys). There was a chair in a briefing room that had a brass plate on the back of it saying that Richard Nixon had sat in that chair when he visited. While there we had governors, senators, congressmen, and foreign dignitaries visit. The most famous visitor that I ever escorted was Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine. She had run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964. Between these tours and the public tours, I learned a great deal about the state of our national defense. In command post they would show us the actual state of our airspace in real time. They would point out Soviet nuclear submarines sitting just off our east and west coasts. Of course we had American nuclear subs pulling similar duty off the coast of the Soviet Union. There would sometimes be suspicious airplanes that were being tracked. Command post would check in with our airborne command posts called Looking Glass and Silver Dollar. These planes were in the air 24 hours a day. Looking Glass was code name for the B-52 that flew over SAC Headquarters in Omaha Nebraska. In the event that the command structure was wiped out in Washington it would be able to respond to a nuclear attack. Silver Dollar was the code name for the plane that flew over Washington D.C.
General Seth McKee

Senator Margaret Chase Smith
Main entrance to the steel buildings
  Escorting these tours taught me a lot about the state of our national defense. I learned that America had a TRIAD offensive nuclear system. The Soviet Union also had a TRIAD system. This simply meant that both countries had three ways of attacking each other. Land based Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles or ICBM's. Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles or SLBM's. Last but not least, American B-52 and Russian Bear bombers. NORAD was a joint US and Canadian venture. The DEW Line, (Distant Early Warning Line) was a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada. There were additional stations along the North Coast and Aleutian Islands of Alaska. It also extended to the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Iceland. If the Soviets attacked the North American continent from the Eurasian land mass with ICBM's, we would have about a thirty minute warning. We would have an even longer warning if it were a bomber attack. If the attack was by SLBM's we would only have about 15 minute, if that. Their nuclear subs were always sitting off of our coasts, including the Gulf of Mexico. Our radar detection capability was less sophisticated along our seacoasts. It was even worse from the direction of the Gulf. There was a chance that we would get no notification at all if the attack came from off our coasts. In 1970 the Soviets were attempting to implement FOBS or Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, which was a platform from which they could launch nuclear weapons from a low orbit in space. This system was implemented but it never really got off of the ground. Eventually the U.S. and Russia would ban nuclear weapons in space by treaty. The really terrifying thing about the TRIAD system was that we had no way to defend against a nuclear attack. We had no defense against an ICBM or SLBM attack. There was somewhat of a defense against a bomber attack. We could destroy two thirds of their bombers but the remaining third were enough to destroy our cities and military installations. Nothing but the Grace of God and our nuclear policy of MAD or Mutual Assured Destruction, kept us from destroying each other during the Cold War. If an attack was detected NORAD would  relay that information to the White House. If the White House decided that we should launch our own attack they would contact SAC headquarters at Offutt AFB in Omaha. In 1971 the United States had MIRV and MARV technology. MIRV stood for Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle. A MIRV could fire multiple warheads from one missile. This was money saving technology and allowed us to keep up with the Russians for years. They had more single warhead missiles than we did but our MIRV technology gave us parity with the Russians. As I understood the difference between MIRV and MARV was that once a MIRV warhead was targeted it's destination could not be changed in flight. A MARV on the other hand could be redirected in flight. One night while I was escorting a public tour through the complex we were listening to a briefing in Command Post. Suddenly I was asked to take the tour just outside of Command Post and wait. We milled around about twenty minutes until an officer walked out and told us to come back in. At that time Command Post was a large open space with three levels. Officers and Airmen sat at computers. On one side of the room was a large screen that reminded me of a theater movie screen. There was an electronic image of the north American continent on the screen. The officer that had been conducting the briefing told us that the reason we were asked to leave was because of a situation that had suddenly developed. He then pulled up on the large screen a computer image of what had just occurred. Before us on the screen were multiple tracks representing Russian Bear bombers flying from all directions over the north American continent. As they were intercepted by our fighters they began returning to Russian airspace. The officer told us that we were seeing a common cat and mouse game played between the Soviet Union and the United States. These situations were always treated as real until the bombers left our airspace. Just outside the entrance of Command Post was a very small office that was always occupied by one man. He had a window in front of him with a view of Command Post. I could never see his face because whoever manned this post always had their back to me. This was our Civil Defense office. He was the guy that sent out the daily civil defense warnings that you always hear on TV and radio. It would say, this is a test of the emergency broadcasting system. This is only a test. On Saturday February 20, 1971, at 10:33 AM, teletypes in every single radio and TV station across the country were notified by this office that we were at war. The war warning had been sent out by mistake. The vast majority of radio and TV stations ignored the message. The reality of nuclear war was just too much to comprehend I guess. The fact that this message had been ignored made the US government question the value of the Civil Defense warning system. Another interesting place at NORAD was the Space Defense Command center. They kept up with all of the space junk flying around in low orbit and any other threat that might come from outer space. Because of the law of gravity all debris that is in orbit will eventually fall back to earth. Most of it disintegrates but occasionally large pieces get through and these pieces are capable of killing and injuring humans. Most of the larger pieces fall into the ocean or isolated areas of the world. Some of these pieces are very large. Space Defense Center tries to warn areas that might be in harms way.
MIRV warheads

Modern NORAD Command Post

Modern NORAD Command Post

The message accidentally sent out to all radio and TV stations

Space Defense Center
Space junk

Space junk

  There were 11 three story steel buildings that made up the NORAD complex. While I was there construction was started on additional buildings. It is my understanding that there are now fifteen. Each of these buildings sat on huge steel springs that acted as shock absorbers in the event of an earthquake or a nearby nuclear blast. A direct hit would destroy the complex. However in 1971 the Soviets did not yet have pinpoint accuracy in their missiles. Inside the NORAD complex was the Command Post, a surgical suite, billets, a Base Exchange, a barber shop, physical training room, a very nice dining facility and numerous offices. There was a huge room full of computers that was managed by Mountain Bell telephone company. We also had an underground water reservoir. Not only were civilians working at NORAD, but the Canadian military along with every branch of the American military. There was a slew of brass always on duty at NORAD. For this reason you always had to be alert. There was at least one Brigadier general on site twenty four hours a day. Whenever I wasn't giving tours I was helping out with breaks and conducting training. I would run simulated problems in order to keep my SAT ready for post checks and actual situations. For this reason we usually performed well when we were tested by the Flight Chief. We had no fire department but Ft. Carson army base was near the complex and they would respond if we had a fire. Because of this we were trained to be able to fight a fire until the real firefighters arrived. Although I got along well with my men I did have a couple of troublemakers.. One man in particular was a large barrel chested guy with a Polish name. When we were both E-4's we got along well with each other. His whole attitude changed toward me  after I was promoted to E-5. I believe that he was jealous of me. Every time I passed him he would bump into me or say something smart. This went on for a while until I realized that I was going to have to put a stop to it because it was happening in front of the men. One day as I was leaving CSC we were passing each other in the doorway when he bumped into me pretty hard. He looked at me and said, "Segroves, one of these days I am going to sniper your ass". I stopped, unbuckled my gun belt, and laid it on a nearby chair. I said, "Okay, you take off your gun and we will settle this thing right here". He glared at me for a long moment. Suddenly, he broke into a shit eating grin. "Segroves I'm just kidding with you". I never had another problem with him after that. Then there was a friend of mine that was notoriously unsafe with his weapon. One day I was relieving him for a break on the inside blast door when he suddenly whipped out his .38 revolver and stuck it in my stomach. My natural reaction was to grab my gun but before I could pull it out he began laughing hysterically. Scared and angry at the same time I warned him never to do anything like that again. On another occasion I walked into CSC and he was holding his pistol to the head of a WAF. He was joking around but again I warned him that I better not catch him doing something like that again. The last straw came when I was unloading my pistol at the clearing barrel. I heard a noise and he was unloading his revolver behind me. This time I threatened to write him up if I caught him doing anything unsafe in the future. In retrospect I have always regretted my handling of the situation. My friendship with him interfered with my judgement. I have always been an advocate of gun safety and his irresponsible behavior was something that I hate. If I had it to do over I would have written him up after the first incident. He could have possibly gotten an Article 15 or a court martial but maybe it would have jolted him into changing his behavior. At the very least he should have been forced out of the Security Police career field. He was not responsible enough to carry a weapon and he was the type of person that gives the rest of us a bad name. This guy was definitely in a league all his own. He was 21 and married a 42 year old woman just before I left Colorado. At Christmas and New Year we combined the Flights in such a way that two Flights would be off the week of Christmas and two Flights the week of New Year. I was off the week of Christmas because I was married and had a family. The single guys were off the week of New Years. This meant that my Flight had to work from 0700 to 1900. This was weird because I went into the mountain before sunrise and got off after sunset. I did not see the sun for a week. On rare occasions I worked posts outside the mountain. There was the Flight Chief and Assistant Flight Chief along with the cops that worked the turnstiles handing out line badges. There was an entry control post leading into the complex parking lot. Then there was the mobile SAT team. I was patrolling the access road on SAT one midnight shift when we rounded a curve. We were just in time to see my Assistant Flight Chief drop a dear standing on the side of the road with one well placed shot from a .22 caliber rifle. If the Sgt. had been seen by the wrong person I am sure that he would have been buried under the jail. I wasn't going to say anything but all witnesses enjoyed a hefty portion of venison in reward for our silence. There was plenty of wildlife around NORAD. The deer in Colorado were huge. At that time in Tennessee you never saw deer like you see now. These deer were bigger than our deer. It was nothing to see a huge buck standing on the side of the road. Many times at night I would hear a mountain lion. They sounded almost like a screaming woman.

Shock absorbers

shock absorbers

A Canadian officer at NORAD
Hallway inside NORAD

Police training inside NORAD

Firefighting training inside NORAD

NORAD water reservoir

NORAD water reservoir

Exercise room
Outside entry control post at NORAD
  One night we were all sitting at home when there was a knock at the door. It was several teenage girls and a man probably in his twenties if my memory serves me. They began witnessing to us about Jesus and they all seemed very sincere. These girls were probably Mark's age and I was very impressed at their zeal for Christ. I knew at that time of my life that I would never have the courage to talk to strangers about Jesus in such a bold manner. I believe that Mark accepted Christ that night and prayed the sinners prayer. I on the other hand had been touched by their visit but I was not ready to take that step. In my mind I wasn't that bad. I hadn't been all that sinful in my life. My mother always had us in church. If we weren't going to church we were going to Sunday school. After our parents died Didi felt obligated to continue the tradition. I would get irritated with her because most of the time she was making us go to church while she stayed at home and went back to bed. We were either going to Eastland Baptist church next door to our house or Grace Church of the Nazarene on Gallatin road near Cahal. Most of the time we went to the Nazarene church. We would walk to the church and I would usually go to Sunday school but sneak out during church. I would walk over to Hales drugstore that was next door and read magazines. On holidays like Easter I couldn't sneak out because Didi would be there. The Hughes family lived at several locations on Cahal. They were our cousins and very religious. There was one older female cousin who would get happy from time to time and scream out. I would usually jump out of my seat when she did this. Toward the end of a service one night the pastor gave an invitation and several of the Hughes women came up to me and grabbed my hand. I didn't want to go but they persisted until I gave in and walked with them to the altar. There I kneeled with me in front of the preacher. I didn't understand the plan of salvation or the concept of grace. When he asked if I had repented of my sins I answered that I thought that I was a good person. Finally I just said what I thought that he wanted to hear so he would leave me alone. I hated that experience and to this day I wont go to the altar if I think other people will be around me. After the visit by those young people in Colorado I was under conviction. We started going to their church. It was Northside Baptist church only two or three blocks away. Everyone was extremely nice and I loved the preacher. The preacher was a Korean War veteran named Bill Wilson. Mark and I joined the choir. Not long after we started going to church we heard about a James Robison crusade coming to Colorado Springs. One day, just after we moved into our apartment, I needed to borrow a garden hose. In the South we call it a hosepipe. I went next door and asked my neighbor Bonnie Ramsey if I could borrow her hosepipe. She didn't have a clue what I was talking about. Bonnie told me later that she thought I wanted to borrow a wrench of some kind. She finally understood what I wanted and said, "Oh, you want to borrow a garden hose". We became good friends after that. Her husbands name was Fred and she had two children, a boy and a girl. We invited Bonnie to go with us to the James Robison crusade. When James Robison gave the invitation I wanted to to go up and I was trying to work up the courage. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bonnie walk to the front. This broke the ice for me and I also went up. I was standing in a large crowd of new Christians repeating the sinners prayer. Some people react to the Holy Spirit in different ways. They cry, shout, jump up and down, faint or whatever. I am a crier. However on this day I knew the Holy Spirit was calling me but when I got down front I felt very little emotion. I even felt a little silly for being there but I was never the same after that moment. There was no doubt that I was a Christian. I am glad that I had a great church to start off as a new Christian. The church was spirit filled and I was bothered by the fact that I didn't have the boldness to share the gospel with strangers. However I was still a baby in Christ and not yet on the meat of the Word. During my time at Northside I witnessed one of the strangest incidents in my spiritual life. We were in revival and the visiting preacher was in the middle of his sermon. Suddenly he stopped and asked us to bow our heads with no looking around. Suddenly in the midst of the prayer he stopped speaking. After a long moment of silence he said in a very hateful voice, "Why are you here? You need to leave. Get out of here now!!" I could feel someone on the end of our pew get up and walk toward the front doors of the church. You could hear the doors open and close. Immediately people began to cry and praise the Lord. The whole atmosphere changed in the church. Someone said later that a woman left the building.
Pastor James Robison

  Mark and I were fighting like brothers from time to time but for the most part we got along. He was going to Wasson high school and was playing on the football team. The varsity won the state championship that year. I once made him walk to school and was ashamed of myself when I realized how far the school was from our apartment when we visited Colorado Springs in 2012.  Robbie loved playing with Bonnie's kids who were close to his age. Her little boy was also named Robbie and she had a little girl that was older I believe. There was a Pizza Hut nearby and a liquor store right next door. This is where we bought our soft drinks many times. We shopped at the commissary and Base Exchange at Ent AFB or the Air Force Academy. On rare occasions we would shop at Peterson Field AFB which was on the eastern edge of Colorado Springs. Many mornings after getting off of a midnight shift we would play tackle football without helmets or pads. On one particular morning Debbie was watching from the sidelines when I was knocked out cold. The last thing I remember was going up for a pass. When I woke up I was surrounded by a bunch of guys looking down at me and asking if I was okay. They helped me up and in a daze I walked over to Debbie and she made me sit in the passenger seat. All the way home I was asking her why I had been there. It took me about an hour before I finally came to my senses. Debbie had a very hard pregnancy early on and was very sick. This lasted about two months and I was scared that she might lose the baby but once she got to feeling better things were pretty normal after that. When Robbie was born Debbie didn't have her family near her. I wanted her mother to be there when the baby was born. This time I was financially able to pay for a round trip plane ticket for her mom. If she would agree to come. She had never flown before and I didn't know if she would even get on a plane. To my surprise she agreed to let me buy her a ticket and Debbie's sister Judy was coming with her. Debbie was to be induced on March 8, 1972 and they arrived about March 6th. On the 7th we took them sight seeing to the Garden of the Gods and to the Air Force Academy. On the morning of the 8th we were at the hospital bright and early. When Robbie was born the hospital would not let the father into the delivery room. It just wasn't done. By the time that my daughter Misty was born attitudes were beginning to change on this. They would let me be with Debbie during the delivery but I just didn't think that I could handle it. I was standing just outside the delivery room door when I heard the doctor say "It's a girl". It had been exciting when Robbie was born but I was really wanting a girl this time. This was before ultrasounds and you didn't know until the delivery day what the sex of the baby was going to be. In my excitement I looked through a window in the door and blood was everywhere. Debbie hemorrhaged during delivery. We had already agreed on a name. I told her that if it were a girl I wanted a name that was unique. One day I was driving through Colorado Springs and I saw a Clint Eastwood movie called (Play Misty For Me) on a theater marquee. I had never heard of a girl with this name before. When I suggested it to Debbie she loved the name too. The only problem was that we couldn't think of a good middle name. On the day that Debbie's mom arrived we were eating lunch at the nearby Pizza Hut when the subject came up. Mrs. Phillips said, "Just call her Misty Dawn". Mr. Phillips liked to call her Frosty Morn. The name wasn't as unique as I originally thought. Since we named her Misty Dawn I have met quite a few girls with that name. Unless there are complications, a woman is usually released from the hospital the day after delivery today. Then, women were required to stay three days. The day after Misty was born I took Debbie's mom Margaret and sister Judy sightseeing. We went to Seven Falls, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Manitou Springs and the Buffalo Bill Wax museum. On the day that Debbie was released from the hospital Mrs. Phillips and Judy were scheduled to fly home. They were able to spend a little time with Debbie and Misty before we had to take them to the airport that adjoined Peterson Field AFB. It was sad seeing them go but in the back of our minds we knew that we would see them soon because I had been granted an early discharge in order to attend college. I was scheduled to be discharged on May 4, 1972.
Wasson High School

Air Force Academy Hospital

  In early April we had a snow that was 14 inches deep. Colorado had the earliest snow and the latest snow that I had ever seen. We had eight inches of snow on September 8, 1971 and now this snow in April. Mark was camping in the mountains and they were snowed in for a few days. Sometime later that month, on a beautiful day, we were able to go with the Ramsey's to Royal Gorge that was South of Colorado Springs. It was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen. The worlds highest suspension bridge crosses the Gorge. It is over 1,000 feet high and the Arkansas river looks like a creek from that height. There is a cable car ride that crosses the gorge. A railroad parallels the river down below. I am terrified of heights and it was all that I could do to cross the bridge. Cars were also allowed to drive on it. When we returned to Royal Gorge on our vacation in 2012 they had added a zip line and a western town as attractions. We also rode the the train through the Gorge which we didn't do in 1972. Our trip to Colorado Springs in 2012, exactly 40 years later, was a bittersweet experience. More sweet than bitter. We had a great time visiting the area again. My sons Robbie and Jon, along with their families, were able to go with us. Mark and his wife Paulette were also able to go. We were able to visit several new places that we weren't able to go in 1972. Cripple Creek, the Florrisant Fossil National Park, and the cog railway to the top of Pikes Peak. I had a tough time breathing at over 14,000 feet. The bitter part was that my daughter-in-law Carrie badly broke her ankle a couple of days into our trip. She and Jon had to fly home where she would have surgery on her ankle. NORAD had moved Command Post from Cheyenne Mountain to Peterson Field. It was my understanding that there was still a skeleton crew manning the mountain. I wanted to go on a tour of the mountain but I was told that since September 11, 2001, public tours had been suspended. It didn't matter that I was a NORAD veteran, I wasn't allowed to see it again. Because of the threat of an EMP or Electromagnetic Pulse weapons, Command Post has been moved back to Cheyenne Mountain since we were there in 2012. Sadly, we found our old apartment from 1972. The place was overgrown with weeds and brush. It was vacant and looked like homeless people had been living there. The doors were open and it looked like someone had defecated in the living room. However the memories flooded back to me as I looked through the apartment. Other than being in a state of disrepair, the rooms looked the same. There was no view of Pikes Peak from the kitchen window however. Buildings that weren't there in 1972 were now blocking the view. The whole neighborhood had deteriorated but I did notice that the Pizza Hut was still there.
Royal Gorge in 2012

Royal Gorge

Arkansas River

Arkansas River

Royal Gorge bridge

Royal Gorge

The gang in 2012

Pikes Peak in 2012
Our kitchen window that had a perfect view of Pikes Peak. The view was blocked in 2012

 I spent half a day on May 4, 1972 processing out of the Air Force at Peterson Field Colorado. Everything was going fine until they paid me for my accrued leave. I only had about ten days coming but they paid me for about thirty days. I was being overpaid about 1,000 dollars and I tried to give the money back. Although I definitely needed the money I knew it didn't belong to me. In addition, I didn't want the government billing me for it later after they realized their mistake. I argued with an Airman about it in military pay until he went and got his supervisor. A SSgt told me that it would cost the government more money to take it back than it would for me to just keep it. This was my first experience with government bureaucracy and waste. About noon I was officially discharged from the Air Force. There had been a blizzard the day before that had stopped short of Colorado Springs. I stood in the parking lot at NORAD and could see snow as far as the eye could see over the plains of eastern Colorado and Kansas. However the snow seemed to end in a semi-circle right at the city limits of Colorado Springs. I had never seen anything like that before. As I was leaving Peterson Field I noticed a black soldier hitchhiking in the east bound lane heading out of the city. I knew that the road was shut down in that direction. Normally, I don't pick up hitchhikers but I took a chance on this guy. I told him that he couldn't get out that way. He said that he was going to an army base somewhere east of Colorado Springs, the name of which I can't remember now. He would have to go north to Denver and from there he could get to where he was going. My intent was to drop him off on the interstate where he could catch a ride toward Denver. I decided to take him to my house and feed him before I dropped him off  on the interstate. As we were eating I asked Debbie if she wanted to ride to Denver. Debbie, myself, Robbie and the soldier set off to Denver. Along the way we ran into a blizzard and I began to think that I had made a mistake. Luckily I was able to drop him off in Denver and safely make it home. My time in Colorado was one of the happiest years of my life. I have never seen anywhere that beats Tennessee, as far as a place to live, but I believe that I would have enjoyed living in Colorado. If the Air Force could have guaranteed me Colorado Springs I would have made a career of it. I knew however that I would probably endure several bad tours like Turkey before I was through and I didn't want to take that chance. So, it was Nashville or bust.
Our Apartment at North Arcadia in 2012

Our kitchen 2012

Our Apartment 2012

Rob, Me, & Misty
Northside Baptist Church

Bonnie Ramsey and Debbie Segroves at her baby shower at Northside Baptist


No comments:

Post a Comment