I was ecstatic. I was home at last and everything was just as I expected. Ethel had done well with the children. Mike Jr. was seventeen and a senior in high school, Patty was fifteen and a sophomore, Jean was twelve and in grade school, and John would be four in two months. Ethel asked if I was through with my war games.
"I promise you I won't go into combat again. Let someone else go. I'm through with war. When my service with the army is over, we're going back to Atlanta, and I'll be happy to return to the life of an airline pilot."
Ethel observed that she'd heard of men and their midlife crises and how they usually went through such phases by chasing women. "But you! You go out searching for a war to fight. You're not normal. I almost wish you had opted for chasing after some floozy. I wouldn't have worried so much."
"First of all," I replied, "I did not have a midlife crisis. But if I had, would you really want me to go chasing women?"
"Try it and you'll wish that the Viet Cong had you," she remarked. As usual, Ethel had the last word. I was in a blissful period enjoying my family. The joy of returning home after a year of combat is a high that only a select few can appreciate.
The army was preparing to take over Hunter Air Force Base at Savannah, Georgia, and I was one of a handful of officers assigned to effect the transfer. My family went with me and we settled into housing on the base. Our small group of army aviators was tasked with setting up a new flying school to augment the facility at Fort Rucker in Alabama. It was the type of assignment that I expected when I vol-