My father, C.R. Smith, was serving as an officer in the U.S. Army, charged with setting up a worldwide military airline called “Air Transport Command” (or “ATC”).
ATC was, essentially, the airline industry of the United States ported into the U.S. Army. Airline executives like my father served in uniform to bring their skills and experience to bear in the war effort, transporting people and supplies for the Army all over the world. Moreover, they built many of the airfields needed by the new enterprise, designed routes, and installed communications and aids to navigation. Doing this, they became virtual ambassadors to nations through which their planes must fly.
Fast forward to summer 2014. That summer our daughter visited us in Texas with her husband and children (who ranged from two to eight years of age).
As part of their visit, we went to the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. Amid the airplanes, helicopters, rockets and displays of memorabilia, I spotted an old map of the world on a wall. The yellowed map showed the world wide route structure of the Air Transport Command (“ATC”). I asked the family to take a look.
Our children and grandchildren thus saw a memento of the worldwide airline their grandfather/great grandfather and his airline colleagues helped deploy in defense of our country. It represented a small but important part of American history – and family history. It was one of God’s blessings to America that helped us win the war.
My father placed a high value on this opportunity to serve his country. Born in 1899, he was too young to serve in World War One and almost too old to serve in World War Two. Of all the things he did in his life, that old map surely represented the chief thing he would want his grandchildren and great grandchildren to know about his achievements. I never knew my father to shed tears, with two exceptions. He shed tears when he heard the anthem, “God Bless America.” Also when he reflected on meeting his Mother in the next life.
I hope my son and his family soon can see the old map themselves.
My Dad was seldom happier than when he reminisced about his relationships forged during the war. However, he looked even happier when his little grandchildren hugged him. I look forward to the opportunity for all of us to hug him again.