on wings and prayers

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence; hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

On Friday, hubby and I attended our nephew’s Wings Ceremony. Sixteen young men and women were presented with their Royal Canadian Air Force Advanced Military Pilot Wings. A short biography was read as each graduate marched forward, describing their academic and military journey to this point.

We were bursting with family pride. My father is a pilot. My brother is a retired Military pilot, now flying for Air Canada. It was just over thirty years ago that we attended his Wings Ceremony in Moosejaw, Canada – home of the famed Snowbirds. Now, he was pinning the Wings on his son’s uniform.

The military ceremony was dense with protocol; the marching, the salutes, and the deference given to commanding officers. Uniforms and flags gave a burst of color to an otherwise colorless hanger. Bag-pipes and drums stirred hearts during the march past of students. Gleaming helicopters and planes on the perimeter of the parade floor nudged us earth-bound mortals to day-dreaming glories of flight; a dream realized for these young women and men.

It takes many years of hard work and dedication to become a military pilot. It will take ongoing training and work to gain and maintain credentials for each new craft flown. And during the graduation speeches, we were reminded of the reality of an Air Force pilot’s career. One day they might be flying over the Canadian prairies, the next week they could be over Haiti, Afghanistan, or Libya.

Whether close to home, on peace-keeping missions, or in the midst of war, the men and women of our armed forces take risks that most of us never face – or would want to face. They deserve and need our ongoing support…and, our daily prayers.

Up, Up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

High Flight

by Jon Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Pilot Officer, RCAF
— 1941