We All See "Normal" Differently
One thing this whole blogging experience keeps reminding me of, is that we all have different perceptions. Based on how we were raised and where we grew up, we see the world differently, regarding right and wrong, good and bad, and strange or normal. I have to keep checking myself when I rant and rave about something, because it may only be a problem to me, and not to everyone. Everyone else might be scratching their head and wondering why I am so upset about something, because their perception is that it is no big deal. It has been a long and ongoing learning process.
When I was growing up, my life was not the average adolescents. I didn't know it at the time, but my life was somewhat special. My brother and I grew up as military dependents of a career Air Force Officer. The short hand was, we were Air Force Brats. A badge of honor among our peers at the time.
My father was not a college graduate. He dropped out of college in 1941 to become an Army Air Corp flight instructor because he had a pilot’s license. He trained many of the bomber pilots that carpet bombed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Near the end of the war he also flew some combat mission over Europe.
When WWII was over, he went back to civilian life. Soon afterwards, the Air Force was made a separate branch of the military and they offered him a sweet deal to come back in. He took it, but his wife (my mother) wasn't really pleased about it. My mother dutifully followed my father to some 12 different assignments around the globe ranging from Hawaii to North Dakota. Every time she finally got the decor in the house to match, we would have to move again.
Over the next 30 years, he had tours of duty in Occupied Japan, Vietnam, went to the Military War College, attained a rather high security clearance, commanded a missile wing (the intercontinental ones) and was a Base Commander. He retired after 35 years as a full Colonel. It was only then, that he went back to college and finished up his degree. He graduated from college in the early 1980s.
I have read statistics that indicate the most Americans never leave their home-state and many settle in the town where they were born. Most only take trips out of state or abroad 2 or 3 times in their lifetimes. Based on those statistics, my family was indeed abnormal.
I attended 2 different grade schools, 2 different Jr. High Schools and 3 different High Schools, all in different states, between the ages of 5 and 18. During those years we moved at least 7 times. We had no home town. Our home was wherever we lived.
So from my perspective, it was no big deal when my father 'took me to work' once or twice when I was growing up. On that cool night at the missile gantries on Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), I didn't realize that sitting on the hood of my father's staff car listening to his 10 lb walkie talkie count down the seconds to an Atlas missile launch was all that strange. When the missile lifted a satellite into the night sky, shaking the ground and turning night into day, I thought it was cool. I never realized that most 9 year olds didn't get to do this.
Atlas, Night Launch
Riding my bicycle down to the flight line at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota to watch the various tansiting military planes stopping to refuel was just a way to pass the time. I didn't realize that most children never saw multi-million dollar supersonic jets close up. Nor would they have been comfortable with the rows of B-52 bombers lined up along the tarmac with 'Hound-Dog' Supersonic Nuclear Tipped Missiles slung under each wing. To me they were just normal.
Hound Dog Air-to-Surface Missle
I started to get an inkling of how different things were when I went to my father's office at Chanute AFB in Illinois where he was in charge of training. One Saturday he walked me through the facility and showed me some of the stuff that went on there. There was a B-52 Intercontinental Bomber that was assembled and disassembled on a daily basis along with other rooms where jet engines were tinkered with. But the one that struck me the most was the secure section of the hanger where they worked on the thermonuclear warheads that sat atop the ICBMs.
By the age of 15, I knew what those flat black cones were. Each had enough destructive power to level a city, and here sat three of them atop a mock Minuteman III. They were training tools to be tinkered with and trained on so that the ones in the field (that contained the plutonium) would work properly (hopefully never).
That is sort of when it dawned on me, that my life wasn't like most other children's. My life was special. I got to see things most other didn't, and I got to go places many others would never go.
Multipule Independent Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVS)
Through the years, those images have been burned into my mind. However, I have learned that we all have images that never leave us. We are all left with the worlds that our parents and our cultures have shown us.
The mother that works in the Emergency Room aiding severely injured people. The father that operates huge construction machinery or the parent that works in a glass tower commanding millions of dollars or a workforce of thousands. They all leave a mark on the impressionable minds that first see them, and they would all think it was 'normal'.
We all come away with a slice of the pie. But to see the big picture is the hardest thing to do. We have to learn that the world is more than what we have seen. It is also made up of what we haven't seen. That is the hard part.
We can't know everything from our front porch or back yard, we have to go out and find it for ourselves to really understand the scope of things.