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“A Display of Honors”
Previously: In Chapter Three: “Nightmares Of A Broken Promise”
Navy Fighter Pilot, Captain Jennifer Ann Conner, while engaged in a training mission, while assigned to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola Florida, severely injured when her fighter jet, loaded with fuel and weapons, suffered multiple bird strikes and both engines failed while she was flying over the crowded Florida Navy Base. Then her jet fighter began to fall from the sky. She could have ejected like she had ordered Lt. Alice Sweet, her Weapons Officer or RIO to do and then allowed the jet to fall and possibly crash into any of the bases crowded buildings, like other pilots had in the past. Then have her fighter hit an occupied building, such as an office. Or perhaps a cluster of homes. Or as most likely in her case: the Base’s crowed Elementary school on that early morning where classes had just begun.
Instead – she flew on alone – in her unpowered jet – seeking a safe place to put the fighter down even if it meant aiming her plane at a safe spot and staying with the jet to ensure the jet crashed away from anything and everyone and – losing her life in the process. The crowed area of the Navy Base offered almost no place large enough for the jet to safely crash in. Except for a span of trees just beyond the base’s Elementary School. When it came time – she aimed her crippled jet downward towards the trees and when sure where her jet fighter would hit – only then she ejected at the last possible moment.
From Chapter One: “A Gift On Christmas Eve” & Chapter Seven: “Miracles In The Storm”
The now medically retired, former Navy Fighter Pilot, Captain Jennifer Ann Conner due to the events as described in Chapter Three, had returned to her home arriving late on December 23rd. Then on Christmas Eve she learned the truth of her upbringing. She had been one of two babies discovered in some wreckage after an F-3 tornado had ravaged their home town just over four decades ago. A long search for missing children was conducted, yet those two babies had remained unnamed and unclaimed. Thus, in time, they were officially adopted by the two couples who found them on that tragic day and they were raised as cousins. Those two children were very close through out their early lives and into adulthood. And they still are.
Note: This Is A Rewritten Story – After my computer and many valuables and family treasures were stolen from my apartment while I was in the hospital recovering from surgery. BIG SIGH! Crap happens. It’s how you deal with it later that shows what type of person you are. I much prefer traveling the higher road instead of stepping into the darkness of rage and hate. And let them be Judged by a Higher Power. But as always it is best to read the entire series in order.
“A Display of Honors”
“The Conner Family – Ch-09”
It was now early February and medically Retired Navy Captain Jennifer Ann Conner, with the aid of her cane, stood with her best friend and fiance, Kenneth. Though she had been medically discharged she could, like any Veteran, still wear her old uniform with her service ribbons and medals at ceremonies and at other certain occasions. Like today. And today it was expected of her to be in her full uniform.
She currently wore her blue winter uniform with her awards and service ribbons displayed and the gold shoulder boards and arm bands of the rank Captain. She was standing, with the assistance of her cane, in the semi-darkness at the left side of the stage behind the side curtains.
Beside her, holding her left hand stood Ken, her life long best friend, whom she was raised with as her cousin and now he was her soon to be future husband.
She was still amazed that even though they had known each other all their lives, unlike other men, he still looked beyond the scars, injuries and burns that she had received only last year. Not very far from this school. And without hesitation, he held her left hand with her three missing fingers. He only saw the person – his cousin – the friend – that he had grown up with.
She could hear the not so soft murmurs of voices coming from the members of the audience. Earlier she had sneaked a peek to see the crowd and had discovered that the auditorium was filled to capacity. Even the balcony was full. And she had spotted Her Mom and Dad sitting in their reserved seats in the front row. Behind them in the second row were Ken’s Mom and his sisters Susan and Pam with their husbands and children. With them in the second row was her brother Brian and Heather and her son. Also in the second row was Emma Harris and her twin daughters Tabitha and Samantha.
Jen was pleased that the Navy had allowed her to include Emma and her girls on her ‘guest list.’ The Conners all knew that her husband James, a Major in the Marines, was currently deployed over seas. Emma had been like another one of her cousins or a sister to Ken growing up with his family after her parents had illegal bahis been killed. And whenever the Conner girls got together, Emma, without hesitation, had always been included.
She smiled. The response she had received by email was ‘Absolutely! – Major James Harris is a good Marine. His family is more than welcomed.’ A letter arrived a few days later confirming the Admiral’s permission.
When she told Emma she had given her a copy of the Admiral’s letter and email. She sighed. Ken made copies for everyone in the family.
Jen smiled. Emma, James and their twins were family. And James, was a long time friend of Ken. And Emma was a friend of Pam’s since kindergarten. And they and their twin daughters, Samantha and Tabitha had always been considered part of the Conner’s extended family.
She closed her eyes. The entire family was here except for Emma’s husband James, a Marine Major currently on duty in his current deployment aboard a Navy Aircraft Carrier in the Mediterranean. She knew, that as the Senior Marine aboard, he would be in charge of ship security and in over all command of any precision assaults the Marines would be required to conduct.
She took a breath and sighed in remembrance. She had flown enough air support missions to know what was involved in those types of ‘boots on the ground’ operations James and his Marines would be involved in. Now they had all learned that he had been rescheduled to be the Base Commander at another location in Afghanistan. His rotation for leave at home had been canceled.
What now surprised her was the three television crews that were set up in the rear of the auditorium. She had expected the students and their parents but not the local news crews to be present. She focused a little more on the TV crews.
At one camera she saw that there were three individuals in the blue uniforms of the Navy. She sighed shaking her head. Crap, she thought: Now she was going to be on the Navy News.
She then chuckled. James would most likely see this aboard ship on the daily Navy News Program.
Then Jen had a sudden idea. Maybe she could get Emma and the twins all up on stage. And let them say ‘Hi’ to their Dad.
Jen had also noted that there were a pair of empty, reserved seats next to her parents. She had no idea who they were for.
She took a deep breath and sighed again. She had thought this was going to be more of a ‘Meet & Greet’ rather than a full scale – on stage – presentation.
The Navy had provided them transportation down to Florida on a military transport. And it was a bumpy ride – but the kids all thought it was fun. She smiled. The idea of them flying on a Navy plane. And the children, one at a time, all got a chance to go up to the flight-deck for a bit. Which had made the flight even more exciting for them. Even the adults had a chance to visit the control-deck.
During the flight, the pilot, a Captain Tom Armstrong, he had quickly informed her that he was not related to the Astronaut. He had even allowed her to take the co-pilot’s position for while. He even let her ‘fly’ the transport for a few minutes. They had talked about the differences of long distance cargo hauls and jet fighters and the required precision of a full power landing on the limited space of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck.
She remembered they had spoke of some of their more interesting flights.
And she told him of the gut wrenching, high focused task of landing at full speed, on a pitching carrier deck, at night, during a storm. And with low fuel.
Then Armstrong informed her that he and his crew, with some medical staff and with a patient, about a critical medical flight he had made through a category three hurricane.
Both had agreed that neither wanted to repeat the experience. Or try what the other had accomplished.
She had also been informed that a more comfortable ride was already arranged for their return flight.
Then she had at Armstrong’s request signed both the flight log and his personal log.
Jennifer took a deep breath and again sighed as she focused her thoughts back on today. She then again shifted her weight to her left leg.
Ken noticed. “Want to sit down?” he whispered.
“I’ll have to soon,” she replied softly, as she considered all of the walking she had done that day.
Then her thoughts returned to the here and now. At first she had been rather reluctant to come down. She hated receiving rewards for just doing her duty and doing what was right. Always had been.
So – here she was standing back stage in the auditorium of the Admiral Robert Webster Cary, Jr. Elementary School. Which was located at the Navy Base in Florida where she had been stationed last year for some additional training on new electronics that had been installed on the Navy’s twin engine, jet fighters, the F-18.
It was the same school that she had avoided crashing into when her engines failed after multiple bird strikes. Which took out both of illegal bahis siteleri the engines on her F-18 Hornet fighter jet. And her fighter had been loaded with a full load of fuel and also some large and dangerous, laser guided bombs for the training flight she and had been on. Along with a full set of a new model of the latest laser, guided missiles. She acknowledged to herself that she could not flown it as far away from the many other buildings – but – even looking back in retrospect – and the review board had agreed with her actions – that she had done the only thing possible. And she had succeeded in the very limited time she had.
And only she was the most seriously injured. And only one teacher, and three students who had been standing by the window in their classroom, had been hit by flying glass. And not hurt seriously.
Jennifer shifted her thoughts away from those still painful memories which she still got lost in whenever she again returned to and began second guessing her choices, her decisions – and her actions. She always wondered if there was something she had missed or something else she could have or – should have done.
She now stood beside her life long best friend and future husband Kenneth, holding his right hand with her left. He was dressed in his best suit, a three piece, dark gray, business suit.
He looked so handsome.
Earlier when she had told him how good he looked. He had snorted saying he did not even come close to how good she looked in her uniform. She could not help but smile and pulled him close to her. And he had held her safe within his arms. She took a deep breath remembering that it was Ken who was the first to arrive at the hospital when she awoke.
Then she remembered the talk they had had before they came down. When she first got the request to come down to the school in January. It was about Heroes. How they needed to be seen and to be heard and to be recognized and thanked. So that others would know that there were those out there who would stand up before those who needed help – to protect them in desperate times. And that he had stated, was the reason why they had both joined. To serve and to protect. She the Navy and Ken the Army. Ken in a support position and she on the Front Lines.
Jen remembered that Ken had always ribbed her about her always wanting to be out where the action was, while he much preferred his more quiet support position. ‘To make sure the lights stayed on.’ She chuckled as she remembered once reading a very long multi-page letter from Ken. One that took several pages to carefully describe one ‘daunting’ repair job he had been assigned to do. She had laughed for days afterwards when it was all over the ‘great hard challenge’ of changing a fuse. As a joke, the Sargent in charge of his maintenance team, had given Ken the task to ‘heroically resolve.’ She remembered she had written a letter back with a photo of an Oscar statue for ‘Best Performance In A Letter.’
In return Ken had sent an email message with only a picture of him smiling and holding up her picture letter of ‘HIS’ Oscar.
Jen took a deep breath and sighed. No matter what was going in her life, Ken could always – somehow – get her to smile. Even without saying a word.
Still – she did not want to really be here. She still did not think of herself as a hero. She just considered herself as a well trained and skilled Naval Fighter Pilot doing her duty. But her lengthy conversations with Ken and her parents – had convinced her that accepting such awards was also part of serving in the military. To show others who served that they were recognized for their actions, for their sacrifices of their time, their efforts – and if necessary – their lives.
And as her father had always said: ‘Someone has to guard the gate. And you want someone who would volunteer – because they knew what had to be done and they knew the risks. And you knew they would stand their ground and do their duty. While someone without that mind set might abandon their post. Leaving others defenseless.’
So – with some reluctance she had agreed – with the condition that Ken went with her.
Jen took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. Then she snorted to herself. The whole family had come down.
She again looked out at the stage. There were five chairs center stage in a semi-circle located just behind the closed curtain. Each had a small table beside it with a glass and a pitcher which she assumed to be filled with cold water. There was a larger round table in the middle of the chairs. Four chairs she could understand. She wondered who the fifth chair was for. She figured two were for her and Ken and the third was for the school’s principle. The fourth was perhaps for the Base Commander. But why five? Who else? She wondered.
“Wonder who the fifth chair is for,” whispered Jen.
“Most likely someone else from Base Command,” suggested Ken softly.
“Probably,” agreed Jen. “That would be a good assumption.”
“But,” canlı bahis siteleri stated Ken with a smile, “you know how to spell assume.”
Jen smirked as she replied, “Make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me.'”
“Captain,” came a soft female voice from behind her.
Jen turned and saw that it was Mrs. Elizabeth Burns, the school’s principle. The woman who had first asked her to come down for a visit in the letter she got in January. “Yes?”
“Captain Conner,” asked Mrs. Burns, “are you ready?”
“Not really, Ma’am,” replied Jen. “I have never been one willing to accept awards. And please call me Jen.”
“Please, Elizabeth or Liz,” returned Mrs. Elizabeth Burns. “The children were so excited to hear you accepted their invitation and were coming down for a visit.” She gestured towards the audience. “All the students and their parents are here. And of course the staff too.” Mrs. Burns looked at Jen for a moment. She took a deep breath and sighed. “What you did that day. There are not enough words to thank you. – I’ve been here long enough to see planes crash and the destruction that happens sometimes. – And – the lives lost.”
Jen gestured at Ken. “We were found as babies after the town we live in was hit by an F3 tornado. They never did find our real parents or family. – So – the two couples who found us adopted us. And we were raised within a very close family. All our parents were in the military.”
“Jennifer’s been my best friend for my whole life,” added Ken.
“Our parents,” continued Jen, ” – adopted parents – taught all of us to be proud of who you are and to always do the right thing,” stated Jen.
“No matter the cost or the effort,” added Ken. “To serve and protect.”
Mrs. Burns glanced at Ken and nodded then looked back at Jen. “Captain – Jennifer – what you did was very brave. If you had not done what you did – the results could have been – catastrophic. With who knows how many of the children killed or injured.” She gestured towards the audience. “The children and the staff know. And of course their parents also know. They are all so very grateful for what you did – and what you risked in avoiding not just the school – but all the buildings and homes in the area. And the request to have you come for a visit – was started by the students.”
“I was surprised,” stated Jen, “when I got your letter with the pages of names.”
“Most of the children who live here, usually with one of their parents, while the other is deployed out serving on a ship at sea,” stated Mrs. Burns. “Or stationed somewhere at a support base in a distant country. And gone for months. And often times we at home have to continue on the best we can. I know,” she added. “I’m a Navy brat. My Dad was Navy. He was gone a lot. And my Mom was always steadfast in support of him.” She chuckled. “As I am for my husband. It runs in the blood.”
“But – enough about me,” she added. “We are here tonight for you.” She then turned and gestured into the darkness back stage. “There is someone here that requests to speak to you before you go out on stage.” Mrs. Burns chuckled. “She was rather insistent. And – I agreed with her reasons.”
“Of course,” stated Jen.
Mrs. Burns turned and waved towards someone who was only a vague outline in the semi-darkness back stage.
A figure in a Navy uniform stepped closer and Jen smiled. “Alice!”
A female, also in a blue Navy uniform, approached. She paused a short distance away and stood at attention and then saluted Jen.
Jen released Ken’s hand, handed Ken her cane and straighten up and saluted back. When she dropped her hand so did the other woman.
“Alice,” stated Jen happily with a big smile as the other female officer came up to her and gave her a hug. Jen returned the hug. Then Alice released her.
Jen gestured to Ken.
Ken stepped over and stuck out his hand as he stated, “You have to be Alice Sweet.”
Alice smiled as she shook his hand. “And you have to be this Kenneth I’ve heard so much about.” Alice released his hand and then gave him a hug. “Thanks for being her best friend and sticking with her.” She then stepped back.
Ken chuckled. “Like I really had another option. I’ve known her for a life time.”
“Alice, what brings you here?” questioned Jen.
“Got orders to appear,” replied Alice. “And a new assignment.” She shook her head as she smiled. “Had to fly in all the way from Australia – and – through twelve time zones hopping islands. Got in two days ago! And I have been transferred back here to teach classes to the new guys.” She snickered, “On how to keep the guy driving from not being too stupid.” She leaned towards Jen. “You know how stupid and eager new pilots are.”
Jen grinned and pointed at Alice as she nodded. “Like what you did for me. And I see you made Captain!” stated Jen. “Congratulations!”
“And,” continued Alice, “I got this strong request to show up here tonight – with you. Like I would ever miss this!” She shook her head as she smiled. “I heard tell an odd rumor or two and some scuttlebutt that you’re some type of hero.”
“Not just me!” stated Jen. “You were up there with me too.”
Alice snickered. “Yeah! But you dropped me off safely on the corner.”
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