Letter of the day: Stockdale on Philosophy

Builders:

Ray Richards sent me the letter printed below in response to a story I wrote about James Stockdale, one of the greatest leaders aviation has ever known. The story focuses on Stockdale’s code of ethics, his will power, and his source of strength. I tie this to homebuilding with points like this:

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“In Stockdale’s test of wills, his enemy’s goal was to make him succumb to fear. If he did, they could determine his mindset and actions from there forward.  It is easy to say that 99.99% of us will not find ourselves in such circumstances. Literally true enough, but perhaps misleading. Stoic philosophy is all about being in command of yourself, and not letting anyone or any circumstance dictate your opinions, attitudes or actions. Stockdale’s enemy was obvious, his goals were clear.

Your life and the challenges you choose may not be as dramatically profound as Stockdale’s, but they are no less important. These things literally are the value of your life and your satisfaction with leading it. Choosing to learn, build and fly are not common goals. The vast majority of people are afraid of these things. If this fear stops them from acting on their ideas and dreams, then someone else is controlling them.

People are not born to be afraid, they are taught this. Stoic philosophy is a method of undoing this, recognizing your own value and sovereignty as an individual. Aviation is a singularly appropriate Arena to develop one’s personal codes.  It offers near limitless potential to those who take it seriously, it holds serious risks and penalties for those who do not.  At any level worth engaging, it is not a pastime, a game, nor a sport. It is a real endeavor worthy of your devotion.”

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Above, James Stockdale before his aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam. As Commander of the Air Wing he flew all of the aircraft types they operated. At the Gulf of Tonkin, he flew an F-8 Crusader; later he was shot down flying an A-4 Skyhawk. You can read the complete story at this link:

James Stockdale – Philosophy

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Letter from Ray Richards:

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“Very well written Sir. I thought that you may enjoy reading a response from someone who has found a considerable applicability in their personal life when related to several of the points you have written about.
My Daughter is finishing her Freshman “Doolie” year at the United States Air Force Academy. She has been laboring over the selection of her major, running through a number of Engineering options intended to help with her future aspiration of becoming a pilot. Last week, she made a decision that at first seemed quite a departure from her end goal. She decided to select Philosophy as a major. Her reasoning went back to High School when an exceptional Teacher spoke about Admiral Stockdale and his personal success with the effective use of Philosophical teachings to control his own actions through Stoicism and how it has continued to be a model for the development of future Officers. Looking back on those dinner time conversations when her eyes would light up explaining to me the writing’s of Epictetus, it all makes perfect sense that she follow this path of education. I believe that this may be the most valuable decision she will make while preparing to become an effective Air Force Officer, potential Pilot, and any other aspirations she may pursue in the future.
Thank you for the clean and understandable read. I’m sure my Daughter will enjoy it as well. Perhaps she and I will discuss it, not over the dinner table, but on Skype this evening. Regards, Ray Richards.”

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Read further comments on the philosophy of James Stockdale from fellow Corvair builders at this link:  Mail Sack – James Stockdale

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Letter From S.R.B., Dick Otto, 601XL

Builders,

Dick Otto is our SRB (senior ranking builder, he was born in 1921). I profiled him in my story “Four Men,” about aviators I have known who fought in WWII. I opened up the mail and saw this note from Dick in the comment section, and thought it deserved it’s own story.

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The letter contains elements that almost every builder can relate to. Long standing dreams, family needs, the challenges of building, and how there are parts of your plane, touched by the hands of others, that are symbolic of the bonds between people. Dick may be our SRB, but in many ways, he is very much like the rest of us.

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In the letter Dick points out the support he gets from “Woody”, he is referring to Woody Harris, our “Man on the West Coast.” We have a good number of Zenith builders west of the Rockies, and Woody has met a great number of them and also assisted us with Corvair Colleges #11, #13 and #18. He is featured in my last story: Woody’s 2,850cc Corvair/601XL hits 400 hours.

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As I said in “Four Men” , Dick and the men of his era hold a special place at the top of the pantheon of Americans I respect. When you read Dick note it is easy to sense that he is still the head of his family, and engaged in life. Dick’s email is dickotto10@gmail.com , for you guys who would like to directly drop him a note.

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 Above, Dick and his 601XL with a running 2700/Dan bearing engine on the front. The picture is from last year during the first start. The plane is plans built. I refer to Dick as our “SRB.”

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From Dick Otto:

 ” About my comments about my purchases. My electric blanket that I purchased about 2 months ago made in China has decided to stop keeping me warm. It has a warranty so i will probably get replacement from the company (made in China). I am not a democrat or republican. I research the way the people running for office have voted on various subjects and then vote for the man that is doing his best for the good of our country. I have voted in every election since 1942 except for the time that I spent in the army in Europe and Manila.

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I soloed in a J3 Cub in 1938 when I was 17 and a senior in high school. The airport was a grass field in Elmhurst, Illinois. It cost me a whopping amount of $5.00 per hour. This was for the instructor, plane and fuel. I road my bike from Forest Park in good weather and in my 1928 model A Ford convertible in bad weather Looking at my log book which I still have I soloed after only 5-1/2hours of instruction. I only flew for about 7 hours more when after graduation I traveled to California to join my parents and sister. I then met my future wife and she did not care for airplanes. We were married for 60 plus years when she passed away in March of 2005.

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I was building a 20′X25′ shop at the end of my daughters and son-in-laws house at the time. I was going to build a boat. I finished the shop and decided to build an airplane instead. I had saved plans for the Gere bi-plane since 1938. But I bought plans for an Easy Eagle from Great plains. I had finished 8 ribs for the wing when my son-in-law came into the shop and asked where he was going to sit when we flew to Oshkosh. I then started looking for a two seat plane.

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I decided on the Zodiac 601 XL and found out there was a distributor in California. I attended a fly in at Cloverdale in 2007.  This is where I met Woody. I purchased the manual from him and the rudder kit from Quality Planes. The rest as they say is history.

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I am not spending as much time on the plane as I started out with but I am going to finish. When I finished the wings and then the upgrades my Grandson painted the left wing, both ailerons and both flaps. He had systic fibrosis and his condition took a bad turn for the worst. He lost his 33 year battle with the condition and passed away in March of 2012. I painted the right wing but it does not compare with my Grandsons wing.

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The fuselage and rear controls are ready for painting. The canopy is on but it needs a little more powerful struts. I have moved instruments on the panel, I had located the radios to close to my magnetic vertical compass. As soon as i rewire the moved instruments I will take it to my hanger at the Byron airport. When Woody started the engine there was not enough time to fine tune it. He said he would come to the airport and do this.  As soon as that is done I will put the wings on and connect every thing up. Hopefully sometime this summer I will have a DAR inspect it.”

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Builders Perspectives reference page.

Builders:

Over the last two years we have had a number of friends write an extended piece to share their perspective on a topic in homebuilding. Below are a collection of these stories. The aviators here are known guys in the Corvair movement.

Consider: Kevin Purtee, host of CC#22 and #28, Cherry Grove trophy 2012; Arnold Holmes, host of CC#17, #25 and #29; Phil Maxson, director of the ‘Zenvair’ list and Cherry Grove trophy 2013; Jeff Moores, furthest north Corvair pilot, most float time on a Corvair; Terry Hand, ATP/USMC, runs our youth program; Greg Crouchley, frequent contributor, now building 2nd Corvair powered plane; Oscar Zuniga, host of 2003 College in San Antonio, Texas.

I am going to put this story up on our home page of Flycorvair.com. Most companies have some form of testimonials on their website.  It’s common enough that people tend to look at ‘5 star’ product reviews, but they often don’t say much or are easily faked. Conversely, I think these stories offer a great testimonial, not to any particular product of ours, but to building a Corvair and to home building in general.  They are from real aviators and express their real thoughts on homebuilding. I think they make an outstanding case for the rewards of traditional Home building by the motto of “Learn, Build and Fly.” If their stories ring true, welcome to your home in home building. -ww.

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Click on any color link to read the full story.

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Guest Writer: Pietenpol builder/flyer Kevin Purtee  “A lot of people build airplanes and then are afraid to fly them.  Got it.  It can be scary sometimes.  The only way to solve that, move on, and get better is to GO FLY!  I found one major aspect of my professional flying to be very difficult when I first started.  I vowed to get better at that aspect.  The only way to get better is to practice.”

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To see more of Kevin’s work look at: Pietenpol review in pictures, 15 more Corvair powered Piets and you can read about the College he and Shelley hosted here:Corvair College #22 KGTU Texas Spring Break 2012

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Above, Kevin Purtee, host of CC#22 and #28, awarded the Cherry Grove trophy 2012, getting in his Pietenpol. Kevin’s day job is flying AH-64 Apaches for the Texas Air Guard.

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GuestEditorial, Arnold Holmes On Affordable Aircraft…“the failure in our success is really that we progressively featured only the very best award winners and show planes in the magazine. I think that over the years this has cultivated a common ideology that if you did not build an award winner than you are not worthy of building anything. People have come to believe
that the requirements for success are so high that the ideology itself is defeating.”

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To read about the Colleges Arnold hosted click here: http://www.flycorvair.com/cc17.html and get a look at this one also:Corvair College #25, In Photos

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Above, Arnold Holmes and his son Cody at our booth, Oshkosh 2010. Arnold is a renaissance man of General Aviation and Home building. He has been a good friend for nearly 20 years.

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Guest writer: Phil Maxson, flying a 3100cc Corvair in his 601XL “On Saturday, I had one of my most enjoyable days flying I’ve had in very long time. It was the first flight in my plane using a
new engine. I now have a 3100 Big Boy temporarily installed.”

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To learn about our Zenvair discussion group click on this:‘Zenvair’ Information board formed       and:‘Zenvair’ information board, part #2. To Learn about the Trophy, read:The Cherry Grove Trophy.

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Above, Phil Maxson of NJ with his Corvair powered 601 XL that has been flying since 2006.

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Corvair Powered Merlin Flying Over Newfoundland “I follow the weather closely to get every bit of flying I possibly can. Even a 15 minute flight before dark after work provides me with a fix. I usually don’t go very far; but I don’t have to be in the middle of uninhabited wilderness.  Low and slow over barrens, lakes, rocks, and trees. When the weather is good, it is beautiful here.”

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To see more pictures of Newfoundland in winter, read: Floats on Snow, Corvair powered Merlin

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 Above, Jeff Moores, at the controls of his Corvair Powered Merlin on full lotus floats, in Newfoundland, Canada.

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Guest Editorial, Pietenpol builder Terry Hand.  “I had an Instructor in NAS Pensacola teach me early on when he said, “Read and heed those warnings. Most of them are written in blood.” What he meant was most of those warnings were added after some pilot had done something wrong in operating the aircraft that either damaged the aircraft, injured or killed someone, or had done both.”

Above, Terry Hand with his steel tube Pietenpol at CC#24. He flies B-767s today, but has long instructed in aircraft from Helicopters to 757s and 767s. He has a tremendous range of skills, but a very humble approach. 

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Guest Editorial, Greg Crouchley, Waiex/Corvair builder. “So, where to start? Totally unfamiliar with Corvairs,  I was skeptical of your statement that cores are plentiful and everywhere and to look on Craig’s List. Did it, and a week later I found myself in Alexandria, Va under a Monza
helping a car enthusiast pull the motor. “

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To read about Greg’s running motor click on this story: World’s Strongest 3,000cc Corvair, built by Greg Crouchley.

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Waiex/3,000cc Corvair builder Greg Crouchley, above, demonstrates that you can put a Corvair into a Porsche. He is now working on a Corvair powered Zenith 750.

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Oscar Zuniga – Guest perspective “I learned a lot about life and about frugality and practicality from what my parents and grandparents taught me and from how they lived, but I learned even
more about those things from my own growing-up years.  I’m the second eldest of 10 children”

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Above, Oscar Zuniga and myself at the 2003 Texas college. The photo is more than 10 years old,  but the memories of time well spent never fade.-ww

Shop Class as Soulcraft – a book to read

Builders,

Every year I have the same new years resolution: Read 50 books. Most years I get pretty close. The time comes from watching almost no tv during the year. It is odd that I can tell you who won the World Series and Super bowl every year in the 1970s, but I can’t tell you who won, or even played, last year. The up side of the trade off is having read several hundred books in the last 20 years. I was just finishing 2014 book #1, Seth Rosenfeld’s ‘Subversives‘, when my neighbor Buzz dropped off a book with two simple commands: “You must read this, and you must give it back” He explained the second one by saying he intended to re-read it again because it is a very rich text.

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The title jogged my memory, someone had mentioned this in a letter. In a break after dinner I sat down to read the introduction and ended up fascinated, reading the first 40 pages. I probably would have read the whole thing, but this is a very powerful essay, filled with contemplative thought, and it deserves a very engaged read.

I purposely select a number of books each year which I am inclined to not agree with the authors perspective. It is an exercise in absorbing the presented case without making up your mind about it until it is concluded, just as we are supposed to do on a jury. But in this case, I am going to jump the gun and tell you this is one of the best books I have read in 20 years.

Some writers captivate me quickly. I think is has to do with how the subject relates to periods in your life; Tim O’Brien writing ‘The things they carried,’  taking you on a guided tour of the ugliest acts and making you see the simple humanity that still lives there, spoke to things in my 20s. Junot Diaz laying bare personal mistakes too easy to relate to in ‘This is how you lose her’ brought up things from my 30s I had deceived myself into believing were forgotten.

Crawford’s  work catches me the same way, but this book is an essay on the personal value of being able to do something tangible and useful. It is not light reading, but neither is it a psychology textbook. This is something of a master atlas for a lot of the mental landscape I have been traveling in for the last 10 years.

If you would like to read an excerpt, here is a link to the original essay that was expanded into the book:

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/shop-class-as-soulcraft

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I wanted to find the letter I read about this book. I wanted to know how I almost missed having this on my reading list. I searched our mail, and tucked away in a ‘Mail Sack” set of notes was this letter from builder  Brian Manlove:

“William –Hope you had a good time at Brodhead & Oshkosh. Just finished a good book:  Shop Class as SoulCraft, by Matthew B. Crawford.  Pretty relevant for today’s world and the loss of craftsmanship and pride in “work of the hands.”Looking forward to more of your words of wisdom…Brian”

I am glad that Buzz drove over and dropped off a copy of SoulCraft, but this is a lesson to follow the endorsements of friends on books. I would be poorer in perspective without reading this book.

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Above from our Oshkosh 2013 coverage, a photo of our neighbor Buzz, who loaned me his copy of the book: “One of the unusual experiences of Oshkosh is running into people from your local airports. On the left, Florida pilot Buzz Glade brought two USAF aviators to the Corvair cookout. It was the first time these men got a good look at grassroots homebuilding and they were impressed, which is no mean feat when you consider that these guys fly F-22 Raptors as a day job.”

Oil Change interval, meeting the challenge

(If the picture does not come through, try hitting F5 at the top of the keyboard.)

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Builders,

I am a lucky guy. When I bring up a serious topic, I can always count on some close friends to send some supporting words of encouragement. Quite often, one of these letters will come from the illustrious mind of 601XL builder Ken Pavlou. (He is the guy who also takes care of the on line college registrations and the parking row at Oshkosh.) Because he was born in Greece, “Adonis” is one of his nicknames. “TTBL” is a reference to the film “Ted.”

” William, Hope you had a great Christmas with your family. I want to share with you that I
mounted both wings on my 601 today. It’s pretty exciting.
Being that I won’t win any awards or break records for quality or performance, I
 decided to try and break the record for longest oil change interval by going
86.5 hours. I just wish I knew of these records before I changed my oil at 0.5,
1, 5, and 10 hours. Oh well.

I wish you a happy and healthy new year. Below is photographic evidence of my progress.

TTBL, “Adonis.”

I hate to tell Ken that 86 hours is just the record for Break in oil, and he has already blown his shot at that. For all I know the longest time between regular changes may be even higher. Ken is a pretty competitive kind of guy, I am sure the will meet the challenge no matter what it is.

Letters from Pete and Steve

Builders,

Two particular letters arrived in the past day from fellow builders and flyers Steve Makish and Pete Chmura. They were both sparked by the story ” Two Letters on Christmas eve. ” Each of the letters references the loss of their Fathers. The stories are tangential to flying, but they are important to me.  Aviators have strong feelings about flying, but also have them for many other aspects of their lives, such as family. In the world of Corvair builders, I have long made sure that we have space for men to share their strongest feelings on both.

People like to complain about “political correctness” , where social stigma is used to deter people from saying non-mainstream things.  Some of the off-beat things are worth sharing, most would simply be edited by taste or being considerate. However, long observation of the human condition has shown me the #1 form of “PC” behavior that people of all political perspectives engage in: refraining from acknowledging the struggles and wounds of others. People hide behind “being polite” when they are just really afraid of conversing and saying the wrong thing. To my perspective, if someone wants or needs to speak, then it is time to listen. When it come to saying something, almost anything said, even poorly worded, is far better than having a fellow human standing alone in a crowd of people.

A number of years ago a friend lost an adult child in an accident. Over time, he had innumerable arguments with friends and co-workers. All of these people quietly complained to each other. To a small group of these people I said “The man has a crippling emotional wound. The physical equivalent would be a six-foot spear stuck in his chest. Everyday, everyone politely walks past him and never mentions or notices the spear. It might just help if someone just said to him, ‘I don’t know what having a spear in my chest it like, but I think you’re doing a damn good job for having that kind of wound.’ Just say that you thought about his kid today instead of pretending they never existed.” When one of the friends said they couldn’t imagine doing that, I politely said I understood, but they were not really the man’s friend.

Above in the orange shirt, Steve Makish (srmakish@aol.com) stands beside his Corvair powered KR2 at Corvair College #8, held at our Edgewater hangar. His friend Bob Lester is in the background with his Corvair powered KR2.

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Steve sent the following note today:

“William I have not written for a year. this has been a bad year and I never thought I  would lose both my parents 13 months apart. Enjoy the time you have with your Mom and Dad and cherish the moments. Happy New Year. Your friend, Steve”

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From Pete Chmura, (petechmura@gmail) sent this letter:

“My Father passed yesterday at age 87. He flew Stearmans at Alameda NAS at the end of the war. He never flew after that. Last summer he said he wished he had “bought that plane” after he was discharged. I’ll be 54 next month. Time to get some wings.”

Pete’s letter made me think about the book above. Max Henderson was my instruments instructor at Embry-Riddle.  The book is his fathers coming of age diary from being part of a barnstorming team in 1935-36. Max found it after his father past. In 2000, Max was the Christmas guest speaker at my EAA chapter. He told a very moving story about how his dad had always downplayed his love of aviation when the kids in his family were growing up. After he passed, Max realized that his father had loved aviation as much as any man, but he had sacrificed his own ambitions to make sure that his kids got a better running start at higher education and their own times in aviation. When Max said this in front of 70 or 80 members of chapter 288, each of us thought of our own parents. There were few, if any dry eyes in the house.

Two Letters on Christmas eve.

Builders,

I write this from my sister’s house in Charleston SC, where my family is gathering for Christmas this year. After driving to NJ for my Father’s 88th birthday, My brother-in-law, John and I drove Mom and Dad here to get them to a warmer setting for the holidays.  It is a long drive, but it is easier on them than airline travel, and they still like to get out and change horizons. On Memorial day I often tell people I have the ‘ultimate luxury’ of being able to speak with my Father by just picking up the phone any day. I am well aware of how few people my age still have both their parents, and this I am most thankful for on this Christmas eve.

On my mind are two letters that came in from people who are not so lucky, and I would like to share them with you because I found them very moving. The first one came from Randy Cary. It was written in response to my story about my Fathers 88th birthday last week, a story you can read at this link: William E. Wynne Sr. turns 88 today. Note that Randy’s Dad graduated from West Point on D-Day. It made me think about all the commencement speakers who have told graduates that they will ‘make a difference in the world.’  Randy’s Father and others of the Greatest Generation certainly did, in some cases at a terrible personal cost.

“William,
Have a great time with your Dad. There is no better way to spend the holidays than to be with family. My dad graduated from West Point on June 6, 1944 and went into the lines at Bastogne on Christmas Eve of 44 in the Battle of the Bulge. Like your dad, he didn’t want special treatment and always felt that there was someone who was worse off than he was. I lost him in 2000 and miss him every day. And to think that he was 23 when he went to war and when I compare him to a lot of similarly aged young people today, it just baffles me.
Count every day as a blessing for you, as I know you do. I have read you blog for three years now.  Merry Christmas to you, Grace and your families.

Randy Cary”

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Above, Charles Poland Jr., 1947-2013.

The second letter came Aaron Poland. He wrote it about his father who sacrificed his own life to save other people’s children on January 29th 2013. If you read a single story I wrote this year, I would like it to be this one: Charles Poland Jr., An American of whom you could be proud. It is not possible to express how much the actions of Charles Poland moved me. Our world is sadly filled with people who make inaccurate judgements on the character of others based on surface issues like race, politics, appearance, professed faith or material wealth. I knew none of these things about Charles Poland when I read about the events of January 29th, and it shows you how none of these things reveal human character, only a man’s actions do. Everything you need to know about Charles Poland could be understood by considering how he chose to spend his last 60 seconds on Earth. The note I received from his son Aaron was very brief, just affirming the code that his Father lived and died by:

“I hope you where able to stop by in Newton, AL. Dad is buried in the local cemetery there. Dad was a helicopter crew chief in the US Army. Dad always believed to do the right thing at all cost and he proved it.”

This will be the first Christmas that the Poland family will have without their father. He was 66 years old, and they surely thought they would have him for many more years. As I type this, my own father sits in the next room sipping a cup of coffee with my mother by his side. Thankfulness for this drives me to acknowledge the losses of others less fortunate.

Later tonight, I am going to send a short E-mail To Aaron Poland simply saying that I think his Father was a real hero, and I was thinking of his family on this day.  If you would like to join me in this, Aaron’s E-mail address is: acpoland@gmail.com . I have never met him, don’t know anything about him except who his father was. I don’t know what ‘right’ thing to say is, but I will say something. I read an essay last year that said we don’t often face a choice between good and evil, but we continuously face choosing between doing something and doing nothing. To remember a father who instinctively chose to do something, at the cost of his life, writing a short note at Christmas seems like a small but important action.-ww