It seems that this time of year I tend to recall things from years ago happenings; I guess it is because so many things happened in the late spring and early summer in my teens, upwards to my 40’s.
Of course there were lots of things that have happened since, but it started with my achieving the Eagle Scout award, something that many worked so hard to get, then of course the War. So many times I lost dear comrades, men that we had fought the enemy together, side-by-side in our fighter aircraft. Victories were against ground and air targets, and naturally we were overjoyed when peace was achieved.
Then for a brief period I was successful in business before I was recalled to fight in Korea, where again I was successful in air combat and also destroying some of the war making capability of the enemy.
And my joy was my marriage to Barbara.
Then I flew combat again in my 40’s as commander of jet fighter squadrons. Flying was my occupation; the citizens of this wonderful nation were sharing the expense for the jets, fuel and personnel to support my mission. I was happy when these episodes were finished. They were not my choice, but we did the government’s bidding.
I am often asked many questions about my life and the conditions while we were in the combat area. Unlike the ground troops who slept in pup tents or fox holes in the ground and had to fight the enemy face-to-face, ate when and wherever they could, and many, many other hardships, we always had nice quarters, adequate food and generally uninterrupted sleep. Not all flying units had it so nice, especially in the Pacific area during the war. We just were extremely fortunate.
One food item I have never forgotten: Brussels sprouts. I guess 99 percent of us had never tasted them, but in England during the war, it seems that the only fresh vegetable our supply people could get were Brussels sprouts. Our cooks had never seen them so they didn’t know how to prepare them. I believe they boiled them till they were like mush. I wouldn’t try them again for at least 20 years, and that was it, I tried them.
My comrades from the war and many from Korea are now deceased and Vietnam Veterans are also fading away. But I remember so many faces, names and episodes, happy and sad. I’m not trying to rush my joining these brave men. I just hope I can go out with a smile on my face.
Colonel Richard Heyman is an Air Force Fighter Pilot who fought in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He will be 96-years-old on May 25, and he still actively plays golf on a regular basis. He has been married to his wife, Barbara, for 60 years.