Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It Was an Honor, But Not a Lifetime

By Mark W. Danielson

Everyone has had defining moments in their lives. One of my most memorable was escorting my daughter through the bullets at my Navy retirement ceremony. Whenever I reflect on this photo, I’m taken back to that special day when heavy thunderstorms failed to deter a room full of people dear to me; most importantly being my father and my children. Smiling proudly, my older daughter carried two flower bouquets; hers and her younger sister’s, who was too shy to take the march with me. It was so great having them there.

But as much as I love this photo, the honors bestowed upon me on that August 1995 afternoon remind me of how quickly time flies. The shadow box presented to me which contains my rank, silver Air Force wings, gold Navy wings, medals, ribbons, and the American flag that flew over the base I helped establish, sits on my office shelf next to the above photo. On the opposite side sits the wood-encased Texas flag the Navy Chiefs presented to me. The A-4 model a civilian gave me stands next to the shadow box. Behind that is the General Dynamics Lifetime Achievement Award another civilian gave me. I wish I could say that I deserved all this praise, but every officer knows it’s the people you work with who truly earned these awards.

Not a day has gone by when I haven't thought about that Lifetime Achievement Award, for I have barely scratched the surface of what I hope to accomplish. Such awards normally come when you have one foot in the grave; not when you’re in your early forties. Whatever I’ve accomplished or works that I’ve published belong to my past. As such, I rarely give them much thought. Instead, I concentrate on my current projects while contemplating new ones. In writing, this method keeps me creative. In flying, staying focused keeps me safe.

In eight years I will be forced to retire from the airlines, and I’m sure that time will fly faster than the space shuttle. I have no idea what I’ll accomplish between now and then, but one thing’s for sure; my inevitable retirement from professional flying will allow more time for writing and painting. In that regard, I say, bring it on for I still have a lot of living to do.


Sylvia Dickey Smith said...

Your article moved me. I married "My Bill" after his retirement from the Army as a full-bird Colonel, so I can brag about him all I want since I had nothing to do with his achievement. Thank you for your service. And we have more than one lifetime to achieve so many neat things--hence your other achievements afterward.

Jean Henry Mead said...

A wonderful award and photo, Mark. My Bill was also in the Navy and I know how proud he is of his air medal and past service.

I clicked on the picture which greatly enlarged it, showing the proud smile on your daughter's face. I'm sure she'll always look back on the occasion as one of the high points of her life.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thank you Sylvia and Jean. It's interesting how one's perspective changes as you grow older. As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom.

When I first started flying in 1965, I thought I knew some things about it. Today, I realize I know little, but I'm constantly learning more. The same holds true in writing, but that's what keeps it fun.

Anonymous said...


A terrific column and a gorgeous picture. Congratulations for a productive life behind you and an optimistic look ahead!

And for realizing there's more to life than writing - and promoting - a book.

Pat Browning

Helen Ginger said...

What a great outlook you have on life and even your past. That was a wonderful picture, too.

Straight From Hel

Mark W. Danielson said...

Thank you Helen, Pat. I do my best to grow each day. Sadly, I have to work too hard to ensure that doesn't mean my waistline:)

Anonymous said...

We owe it to someone else's achievements in health and thus feel joy, depending on the success of others as if their achievements, and this is the Buddha mind. Always hold the interests of all sentient beings of the heart, we can not leave the joy forever.