I met this young captain in early 1954 at Hickam Field in Hawaii. He was Admiral Willingson’s aide. The admiral was in charge of all the Pacific Aircraft.
The captain and I became great friends. He was the pitcher on the officers’ softball team, and I was the NCO’s pitcher. We played many games together.
A year later our headquarters of 750 people — two-thirds Air Force and one-third Navy — moved stateside to Travis Air Force Base in California as the headquarters from the Mississippi River to Japan of all our transport aircraft that flew all over the Pacific.
I was doing a good job, and made rank fast. My new friend also made rank fast. He was a major. He would be assigned to other bases, and I stayed with my headquarters for 13 years.
He visited me many times when he flew into Travis. It seems like every time I saw him when he came by to visit with me, he had a higher rank. When I was assigned to Germany he was a one-star general. A couple of years later when I saw him again, he had three stars.
In 1972 when I was assigned to the Pentagon in charge of the West Wing and the many departments I was in charge of, my general came to my office and told me the Air Force Chief of Staff wanted to see me.
I was very nervous. I had been told I was doing a great job, so what did the Chief of Staff of the Air Force want to see me for? When I got to his office, his secretary told me to go right in, that he was waiting for me.
I went into his office, and sitting behind this large desk was the captain I had served with in Hawaii in 1954. I almost passed out.
He came out from behind his desk and gave me a big hug. He told me that we were together again, and was upset when I told him I had put in for retirement.
We saw each other many times. The last time I saw him was 90 days later when I left the Pentagon. I think I saw some tears in his eyes when we said good-bye.
I never saw him again, and I miss our friendship.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)