When the virtuous have fallen

People say that there is frequently an incredible bond between humans and animals.

That is true.

There is, I submit, no greater bond between animal and human but when service dogs are involved because life and death — for both — is the bottom line.

From FoxNewsInsider.com:

Soldier Lays Flag Over Military Dog After He’s Put Down

A heartbreaking photo shows the moment a U.S. airman said goodbye to his best friend, his 11-year-old military working dog.

According to Inside Edition, the 11-year-old German shepherd, Bodza, had to be put down last week due to health problems.

His owner, Air Force service member Kyle Smith, draped Old Glory over Bodza after he comforted the pup in his final moments.

“I held him in my arms the entire time. I’ve never cried that much my entire life,” said Smith.

Bodza served alongside Smith on his 2012 deployment to Kyrgyzstan. Smith’s superiors surprised him with the adoption papers a few years later when Bodza retired from service.

Please watch the video but, however, be prepared to be monumentally moved.

Animals embolden, inform and enrich our lives. But like fellow soldiers in foxholes, service dogs embody and enforce the unwritten rule that the fight is not necessarily for greater good but, instead, due to the unshakable bond between individual warriors.

This goes both ways as well. No one can forget moving photographs or videos of dogs laying prostrate for their military handlers who were killed in combat.

God bless America.

As a friend of mine says, it is past due time for America to bless God.



8 years on: my father passes

My father, Col Richard L Alley, passed away eight years ago today, at the age of 88. I clearly recall the one thing he said about his own father, who passed away in the front yard at the age of 80: “I just want to live longer than he did.”

And so it was.

My mother and father met in Sacramento when Dad was training at Mather Air Field. He ended up flying missions for the 8th AF in B-17s, made his missions in one piece and returned to the states, where he became an instructor in B-25s.

Here Dad is being trained to fly.

Dad’s father, Verto, served in World War I.

Verto and Kathleen married soon after. This photo got Verto through WW I.

My father, left, with his brother Jim in Kansas City, Missouri, 1925. All three brothers served in World War II. Dad chose the Air Force, Uncle Jim served in the army and Uncle Bill in the navy.

I miss my father every day and honor his service. Col Richard L. Alley, USAF, 1920 to 2009, WWII and Vietnam.

The same folded flag above is in a polished cherry walnut case no more than four feet from me as I write, with three of the brass casings fired at his salute.



America’s pilot Bob Hoover passes at 94

bob-hoover-wwiiFrom MPRNews.com::

Bob Hoover, one of history’s greatest pilots, dead at 94

by Bob Collins

One of the greatest pilots in the history of aviation died this morning, according to reports.

Bob Hoover, a World War II fighter pilot, a former Air Force test pilot, and the chase plane pilot for Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier for the first time, was 94.

A lot of the greatest pilots who ever lived will tell you that Hoover was the greatest pilot who ever lived.

bob-hoover-aero-commanderAnd he was, if you were ever lucky enough to witness a Bob Hoover performance at an air show in the United States when he flew, for example, his Shrike Aero Commander. As destiny would have it, I was sufficiently lucky to have seen Bob Hoover a full five times.

As a German POW, Hoover escaped Germany by stealing an airplane. Balls of steel.

After being shot down in 1944, Hoover spent 16 months in a Stalag Luft I, a German prisoner of war camp on the northeastern coast of Germany, according to the National Aviation Hall of Fame. Hoover jumped a barbed wire fence while the guards were distracted by a staged fight. He stole a lightly-damaged Focke-Wulf Fw 190, flying it to freedom before ditching the plane in a field in the Netherlands.


Bob Hoover’s North American T-28 Trojan trainer.

AOPA.com writes:

The winner of hundreds of military and aviation awards, including the prestigious Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 2014, Hoover died Oct. 25 in Los Angeles at age 94. While frail in recent years, he lived at home and relatively pain free until the last few days, according to close friends.

Known for his ability to tell one engaging aviation story after another, Hoover loved interacting with pilots and prospective pilots, often going out of his way to speak to children, encouraging them to follow their dreams. “Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do it,” Hoover said during the presentation of the Wright Trophy. “You learn how to do it. You figure out how to do it. And you are the only one who can make it happen…. Don’t give up if that’s what you really wish to do.”

Let us look at Bob Hoover in action. In 1986, for example, when the below video was shot, Bob Hoover was 64 years old. That, ladies and gentlemen — to be  blunt — is a stud.

How many people customarily performed actual aerobatics in a two-engine plane? Yes. That would be one: Bob Hoover.

bob-hoover-young-pilotHe was called the “best stick and rudder man who ever lived.” Hoover lived and survived by his senses — not like the digital pilots of today whose human-to-metal contact is limited by electrons and joysticks and glass cockpit screens. You don’t truly “fly” a plane today — you mostly program it and wait for the autopilot to take charge. You are a human “course changer” and “altitude changer.” You are a backup. You are extraneous. The difference, say, between Airbus and Boeing. Joysticks vs actual yokes.

bob-hoover-shrike-aerocommanderBob Hoover — who had to fight and conquer air sickness — became the kind of human whose spatial consciousness, inner ear and sense of presence exceeded that of 99.9% of most mortals. Today’s cockpit occupiers are primarily programmers entering numbers. They know it and it makes them simultaneously sad and appreciative to have, truly, the very last jobs in aviation before fully autonomous aircraft take over.

bob-hoover-blue-skiesThey know it. And they all wish they’d been Bob Hoover.

CNN.com wrote:

A precise aviator, Hoover famously was able to pour a glass of iced tea in the middle of a barrel role. Hoover’s famous green and white stunt plane sits prominently under the wing of the Concorde supersonic airliner at the National Air and Space Museum Annex in Chantilly, Va.

God bless you, Robert Anderson “Bob” Hoover.

Just as UNBROKEN documents the life and times of WWII hero Louis Zamperini, Hoover’s book FOREVER FLYING documents the incredible life of Bob Hoover.

God bless you, R.A, “Bob” Hoover.

When a person gets to do what one actually loves to do, they are truly blessed.

Fair skies and following winds. Be forever flying, sir.


I love you, dad.


I almost forgot

RL & JS Alley, About 1925, 5509 Holmes St., KC., MO.0

My father (L) and his brother Jim, in front of their house at 5509 Holmes Street,   Kansas City, Missouri, in 1925.

5509 Holmes Street Today, KC, MO

5509 Holmes Street today (R), same sidewalk in foreground.  You can see the two-story house, upper left, is the same as the one above.

And that concerns me.

I wrote this post late Thursday night of the 11th, in anticipation of posting it this past weekend because, almost before that day had passed, I realized what I’d not done.  Because of the stream of news and events, I’ve waited to post it until now, Sunday.

I’d not remembered that was the day my father passed away in 2009, seven years ago.  My God, seven years ago.  In a way it seems like yesterday; in another, it seems like a vast, chasmic distance in the past.

Today my father, had he lived, would be 95 years old.  As it was, he lived to 88.  He once told me that all he wanted to do was live longer than his father, who passed away in the front yard of his house in Dallas at the age of 83.  His father served in World War I, having been born in 1895.

VR Alley, 1917.0Above is a photograph of my father’s dad, Verto Alley, who was a bugler and served overseas in Germany and France.  Verto was born in 1895, in Minnesota. Though I met him about three times, I remember little if anything about my grandfather because I was young, and because my grandparents on my father’s side lived so far away.  I’m pretty sure I factored not at all into his life either.

Thru War

As you can see, my grandfather Verto carried this photo of his wife Katy throughout his assignments in World War I.

On the other hand, Dad’s mother, Katherine, was born in 1899 in Missouri and liked me.  Those same three times I may have encountered my grandmother, I only remember good things about her.  I can remember being in the back seat of our 1958 Oldsmobile 88 with grandma.  I’d just had a haircut.  Dad always cut my hair with the Wahl electric clippers that I have to this day; he would do it with me perched on the yellow stool perched in the middle of the kitchen on the linoleum floor.

1958 Olds 88 BlueGrandma was in the back seat of the Olds with me.  She leaned over, scrappled my short hair and called me her “towhead.”  Then she kissed me on top of my head.

Dad, Sepia, Open Cockpit, Standing-A Dad, Standing, Propeller-AThe above photographs are my father in primary flight school, where he learned that the US Army Air Corps considered him to be, after evaluation, bomber material.  Dad wanted to be a fighter pilot — who didn’t? — but the USAAC said he was a “team player” kind of guy, not a lone wolf.  To multi-engine planes he went and the B-17.

Mom & Dad WWII Photo B&WAfter surviving his missions, Dad came back and the married my mother on April 24th of 1942.  In its infinite wisdom the US decided to make Dad a B-25 instructor.  Go figure.  Above is a photo of my mother and father a short time after their marriage in Reno, Nevada.  Below is my father seated in a B-25 Mitchell.

Dad In Cockpit, Pilot Seat-ABelow, Captain Dad poses with his friend Joel Kuykendahl, while assigned as flight instructors at Roswell Army Air Field (AAF).

Dad, Sepia, Capt, Roswell Flt Inst, With Joel Kuykendahl-A I reminisced about Dad recently with my wife and her sister, when she came to visit for the past three weeks as I recuperated from foot surgery.

To this day I miss Dad terribly.

Col Richard Lee Alley, USAF
1920 – 2009
WWII, Vietnam