Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A look back at a most loved and respected man!

What makes an honest and well respected man? What makes a Hero. For reasons unknown to myself, as of late I have been thinking a great deal about my deceased brother, Colonel Robert F Leimer USAF (Ret).

It might begin with the things you do as a young child. Something my older (and only)brother and myself did quite a bit during our youth was build gasoline powered model airplanes such as this. In fact, I recall helping him build a model exactly like the one pictured below.

On many Saturday mornings when weather permitted, we would go over the old deserted runways of the "Hancock Air Base" and fly the models we had labored on, sometimes for many months. We would fly the planes as long as we could, usually till they crashed and couldn't be repaired with the glue and spare parts we would always bring along. My brother taught me a great deal about building models correctly and what was what on an airplane.

Then, Bob began taking Flight Lessons out of a little airport in upstate New York, known then Cicero Airport, simply a mowed and worn down grass field with a small diner and control room (a radio behind the diner's counter). Today its "Billy Michaels Airfield" named after the original owner/founder. Photo below **Click To Enlarge If'n Ya want to.**.

The first plane he learned to fly was the J-3 Piper Cub. Back in the day, an hour's Flight Time only cost $12.00/hr, and he earned his flight money the old fashioned way, by working for it. Mowing lawns, shoveling driveways in the winter, you name it.

A few years later, I followed suit and followed in his exact same footprints, flying the same plane(s) out the same airfield and making my money the same way. I believe every man and woman in this world need a role model at some stage of their early lives.

Then, along came the now "Forgotten War", Korea, and Bob had joined a local Marine Corps Armored Reserved Detachment in Mattydale, NY, and you guessed it, off to Marine Corps "Boot Camp" at Pendleton, CA. He didn't even get a chance to finish High School.

At some point in time while he was in "The Corps", his platoon was used as "Extra's" in the movie "Battle Cry", (trailer below). I remember that my Mom, Dad and myself went to the local "sit & scratch" (Cooties were more common back then) movie theater to see the newly released movie in the hopes we might just catch a glimpse of him. Of course we didn't.

But that was the movies, in real life Bob drove an Amphibious Assault Vehicle at General McArthur's, Inchon, Korea invasion, like the ones pictured below.

It was in the Corps that he saw first hand what the lack of a good education could lead to, so upon returning home after the war, he not only finished High School (with Honors), but then went on to the State College at Oswego, NY and became a teacher.

Although he truly loved teaching, and was excellent at it, it was too mundane and tame a life for him. After several years as a very accomplished teacher, he then became an Officer in The United States Air Force and eventually wound up flying F-4 Phantoms over Vietnam.

On many occasions he returned from various combat missions with his plane shot up pretty good. I guess God was his co-pilot on all those missions, and THAT was something we both believed in, a Higher Power that watched over and guided us in our daily lives and decisions.

Of course there is much much more to this life story, but I write and post this very brief account of his life more so for my benefit than for the readers, if any. He retired from The Air Force in the 1980's and was taken from us a few years later by cancer.

There are very few men who have ever walked this Earth that I have ever respected and revered as much as my brother Bob, and that's because he set such a high standard for others to meet. I dearly miss him and his companionship, sage advice, humor, and all the great qualities he possessed that made him an honest, well respected and loved man.