Father’s Day: What About Mine?

IT’S NOT YOUR TYPICAL FATHER’S DAY STORY: THE AUTHOR ASKS WHY HE COULDN’T HAVE HAD THE FATHER THAT HIS DAD USED TO BE

Richard M. Herd

I WAS EIGHT WHEN WE MOVED from Martinez in California to Tulsa. Dad, mom, me, my brother. But we drove back to California for three summers in a row and went to Trinity Lake with my mom’s parents, in the far northern crevices of California. We rented a houseboat and tied the ski boat to the side and drifted to various beaches. My dad skied for hours, and my grandpa drove the boat. Grandpa yelled, “Just follow along.” I sat and watched my dad carve huge rooster tail curves. Sometimes he went so fast, he caught the boat, no slack left in the rope, and sprayed us. That meant he was done. Grandpa made the huge sweeping turn to pick him up. There he was: my dad floating on his back, completely exhausted, endorphins pumping through his veins, and just staring up at the sky, his bare chest, yellow flotation belt, green swim trunks, and a wooden ski. He said, “This is the life Richie. This is the life.” I wish that guy was still my dad.

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Memorial Day: A ‘Hell Hawk’ Tells His Story

EDWARD LOPEZ LOOKS BACK ON HIS CHILDHOOD IN L.A., LIFE AS A TEEN COWBOY IN NEW MEXICO, AND A FIGHTER PILOT IN WORLD WAR II—AND PAYS TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO DIDN’T SURVIVE THE FIGHTING, ESPECIALLY COUSIN JOHN.

By Edward J. Lopez

I WAS A HELL HAWK. THAT WAS THE NAME given to us pilots in the 365th Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps. Among the many missions I flew against the Wehrmacht’s last bloody stand in the waning days of World War II were two that proved decisive in the victory of the Allies over Hitler.

It’s odd to think about: I was a boy in the early days of downtown Los Angeles in the ’20s and ’30s. My brother and I would pretend we were pilots, but I never really thought I would one day become one. As a teen, I spent time as a cowboy, learning to ride horses on the New Mexico range where my family had our roots. Then, I helped the Allies finish off Germany.

There’s a through-line to this story, though and it’s this: Instinct.

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