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.