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Spending Cuts
Veterans' Day, a terrible peanut crop year, and the crash of the F16 military plane near Sidney are all subjects too close to home - probably too much for my already cluttered mind to deal with, but here goes:

At a recent peanut meeting at Rodney Stephens' farm, I recall two things Congressman Charles Stenholm commented on:
  1. We currently have some 79 different military missions going on around the world.
  2. The only cuts in spending by this administration have been in military and agriculture.
As a veteran, a farmer and a concerned citizen, I wonder about the logistics involved in supplying our military forces at home and abroad with less and less funding.  The crash of the F16 near Sidney is just one of far too many military accidents that make me wonder if stinting the military may be the cause of inadequate maintenance and supplies.

As a former mechanic in the 95th Fighter Squadron of P38s, I am especially interested in our F16s. Our present-day 95th Fighter Squadron flies F16s out of a Florida Air Force base, and I know it to be perhaps the most sophisticated state-of- the-art fighter aircraft in today's arsenal of death- dealing devices and the most expensive of its class. It has been my privilege in past years to meet and visit with some of the brightest, most dedicated young (oh, so young) men who fly them.

At our recent 82nd Fighter Group Reunion (our 17th annual event) in Scottsdale, AZ, I had the opportunity to visit with a Lt. Dick Wilsie (retired Col., USAF) and picked up a bit of his history in addition to what I already knew. I remembered him being shot down at Ploesti in August of 1944, and his wingman, Dick Andrews, landing his own P38 nearby. Andrews picked up Wilsie, and the two crammed into the P38 cockpit and flew the 2 1/2 hours to a safe field in Russia.

I acquired a few additional facts concerning his career.  He was one of the first American pilots to fly the Beaufighter, in a night-flying squadron before he joined our 82nd Group and flew 82 missions. After retirement, he was recalled during the Korean War, and during that and the Vietnam War flew extensively in C78s, A20s, and P40s.  Actually, he told me, he had served in four wars.  To my questioning look, he said he also served in the "Cold War," which of course was never classified as war as far as military records or credits were concerned. He assured me it was every bit as potentially hazardous as any of the others. He also voiced his concern about cuts in the military.

I wonder if Wilsie, Stenholm and 0'Brien are the only ones worried. And I wonder if anybody besides O'Brien is worried about peanuts.



Printed in The MESSENGER magazine, Jan/Feb 1998