I came across some old pictures when I, and a group of maybe 10 or so of us Armenians, served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard back in the 1960s. We shared membership with other Armenian airmen who served before us in the ROYAL ARMENIAN AIR FORCE. In fact, there had been created bumper stickers with the heading ROYAL ARMENIAN AIR FORCE RIDES AGAIN with a camel riding a flying carpet as its logo. Why? Well, we were jokingly known as Camel Jockeys or rug merchants. Of course, our “Air Force” of Armenians gave us a connection, a bond of one to the other that no other group in the unit had.
The pictures brought back memories of the duties we performed and how each unit was connected to the other in getting the overall job done. Basically, we were to get a squadron of jet fighters and pilots into the air and have them return safely. OK, so here is the point.
I read the following story online:
Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience!
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.
Maybe the title for this article could be: “Who’s packing your parachute?” Why?
None of us should ever think that we go through this world making it on our own. The lesson we need to learn is simple: we’re all connected.
Everyone has someone who provides what we need to make it through the day. It could be the auto mechanic making sure the brakes are installed correctly; the cafeteria cook making certain that our food is prepared properly; the doctor and dentist helping to avoid illness; the guy driving our children in the school bus. If you stop and think of it every one in a society is connected to the other person.
We all need parachutes: physical parachutes to help us in times when our “plane” seems to be falling out of the sky; our mental and emotional parachutes when facing challenges beyond our control; and of course our spiritual parachutes when God seems distant from us.
Perhaps as we all begin 2019, we can take the time to recognize those people who “pack our parachutes” knowing that someday, their actions may just save our lives.
Start by having a smile on your face, saying hello to the other person, holding open the door, . . . It may do wonders for the other person whom you may never have an opportunity to meet. In fact, just your simple gesture of noticing them as a person may just have changed their whole outlook and perhaps saved their life…