As spring turned into summer in 1989, I had completed my deck and “climbing rose arbor” along with a finished railing and upper lattice triangles to weave the roses through.
One day when I discussed possible assignments with the Air Force Personnel Office, the Personnel Officer said you can be an “ECO” at Hahn AB, Germany.
I said, “I’ll take the job…just tell me what an ECO is;” and he said it was an “Electronic Combat Officer” – and I took the job immediately.
I told my fellow Instructor WSO’s that I was going to Hahn AB, Germany, to work with F-16 pilots – and they couldn’t understand why I would want to do that.
I said the F-16 was the most current fighter in the Air Force inventory and soon the F-4 and F-111 would only be sitting on pedestals – plus they needed my help at Hahn AB.
I also said I missed USAFE and being a part of NATO – and wanted to be back on the “tip of the spear” again in USAFE…and little did I know how the world was about to change and the future was about to unfold.
I was the most proud of having instructed future WSOs during my time at Mather AFB; who would soon participate in the Gulf War and beyond – in the most challenging environment ever – and do a spectacular job.
At the time, many of my fellow Instructor WSOs couldn’t grasp that the world had changed; and that the Air Force would begin a long process of encouraging WSOs to separate from the service as their cockpits were going away for good.
I figured out that a single seat fighter pilot needed all the help that they could get – so I was determined to do all that I could to give them that help – and they appreciated all the help they could get.
I spent three months in approved self-study in the EWO squadron at Mather AFB, getting up to speed on what I had to know; and was determined to be the best ECO that I could be.
I had just finished getting our back yard up to speed when we put the house on the market – and my wife and I began the process of preparing for another PCS (Permanent Change of Station) move.
After the movers left with our household goods, I flew with my wife and son to Germany to drop them off in Bruch at my wife’s parent’s house; and then I returned to Mather AFB to complete my PCS move and enroute training.
I had TDY (Temporary Duty) orders to attend a 10 day course with the 162nd Fighter Wing at the Arizona Air National Guard in Tucson, AZ – and enjoyed spending time in the beautiful Arizona sunshine.
After completing the course with the 162nd Air National Guard in Tucson, Arizona; I returned to Germany in August of 1989 – where my wife and her father had found a house for us to rent in a small village called Monzelfeld – east of the Mosel River in the Hunsruck region of Germany.
Our family visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California in April of 1989.
It was the first time that my wife and son had been to a Disney theme park.
I had been to Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida, twice before – but never to Disneyland; so it was a first for me too.
We all enjoyed the “larger than life” Disney characters that walked around the park, and here is a close-up of Goofy.
David didn’t really know what to make of these giant cartoon characters, and here Mickey Mouse takes the time to put him at ease.
Brer Bear tries to reassure David that it’s ok to give him a hug, but David wasn’t so sure at the time.
The reason that Disney is so successful in all that they do is because they do everything – characters, costumes, music, rides and attractions – as perfectly as possible and always maintain that high standard.
Here Mini Mouse greets another child who enjoys the experience of meeting the Disney character up close and personal.
By this time David was more at ease with the life sized Disney characters, and here he strokes Donald Duck’s hand – knowing he has his own Donald Duck friend back home.
We had another opportunity to ride a carousel or merry-go-round at Disneyland, and here David rides on his own horse.
Looking as if he was galloping across the fields, David seems to take this ride in stride for a two year old.
David and I come round the bend “neck and neck” in a horse race that seems to be never ending.
David really enjoyed the teacup ride at Disneyland, and I think that all of the swirling colors and oversize teacups really appealed to his sense of imagination.
It was a long day at Disneyland, and even the best little troopers get tired – and David was no exception.
Roger Rabbit was a great hit for David, and the “over the top” aspects of the character, designs and animation really appeals to kids.
I really enjoyed these views from the Disneyland Skyway gondola, as they reminded me of Germany and what we hoped would soon be a return to Europe for our family.
The quaintness of Old World architecture really appeals to my inner nature, and is one of my very favorite things – along with landscape design and progressive rock music.
So Fantasyland on this visit to Disneyland really appealed to my desire to return to Europe, which even today appeals to my sense of adventure just thinking about it.
In many respects, what I appreciate the most is an authentic lifestyle; which is often lacking in modern society – that emphasizes the convenient and artificial over the authenticity of natural materials and organic lifestyles.
At this point the Disneyland parade began, featuring rock-n-roll music from the 1950’s in a musical extravaganza.
Many of the normal Disney characters also participated in the parade; where the teen dancers and the music were the main attractions.
The parade featured a recreation of a 1950’s soda and malt shop “sock hop” musical extravaganza.
No matter what Disney seems to do it always works, and the singers and dancers were all top notch that day.
Even Goofy is wearing his Disney High School letter jacket, and is very much part of all the action taking place.
Pluto joined in the fun and activity too, as the parade slowly went down Main Street U.S.A.
Of course the overriding appeal in the Disney experience is a sense of escapism from normal day-to-day life, which is fun occasionally but shouldn’t be the focal point of life.
Some people would rather live the Disney fantasy than experience real life itself, and for them the escapism means that they don’t have to deal with reality – which isn’t very healthy in the long run.
But for the child in all of us a visit to a Disney theme park is a great opportunity to let children and adults as well enjoy a well deserved break from the ordinary and experience the extraordinary.
A roller skating waiter serves up lunch on a tray, while a larger than life juke box plays in the background to the delight of the crowds.
Eventually the dancers finished their numbers and the parade came to an end, but it was an exciting day for our family to experience the best of Disneyland in the spring of 1989.
David was now two years old and as “rough and tumble” as a boy could be – 100% action all the time – and always ready to play or wrestle.
What has never ceased to amaze me is just how quick a child’s growth and learning curve actually are; and at two years old David was starting to easily become our equal in so many ways, and was sharp as a tack.
One activity that David and I never missed out on was our daily wrestling sessions on the family room carpet, and here he rides me as if I was an elephant – which he loved to do.
I think that more than any other specific activity, David enjoyed his “elephant rides” the most of all – because he was now in charge and in control of his world – which is important for kids to experience from time to time.
No matter what the wrestling hold was or what impossible position I put him in, David never gave up or called “Uncle” – never.
It was an early test of wills between David and I, as he decided early on to never lose a wrestling competition – because he could simply “outlast” me without giving in.
So as time went on and I had other things that I had to get to, even a little tickling wouldn’t get David to throw in the towel…he simply asked for more.
My personal philosophy is that children begin “growing antlers” early on in life and are constantly probing their boundaries; and David’s first “victory” in life was to know that he could always outlast me in a wrestling competition and would never, ever give in – and it worked.
David was beginning the transformation from a toddler to a very big boy, and was confident and secure in his world and his place in it.
David now began to roam further afield and his tricycle got lots of use, but our favorite activity was our daily late afternoon and early evening walks as a family.
It seems like children transorm themselves on an almost daily basis as they grow and learn more and more every day – making adults look like we’re stagnating in comparison – if we don’t continue to challenge ourselves as well.
Adults often seem to “plateau” at a relatively early age – in their mid twenties – and decide that they are done with learning and have all the understanding that they need for living…and sadly begin the long process of mental and physical atrophy from that point on.
Here David decides to go for a stroll in my loafers, and proudly demonstrates that he too can carry the load for a while as the “man of the family.”
Children constantly push their boundaries on a daily basis, always discovering and learning – and building skills that will carry them to the next level in life.
Our daily walks as a family in the late afternoons and early evenings was really a special time for us, and David easily walked a couple of miles as just a young child.
We walked through nearby fields and new subdivisions that were under development, and there was always a point where David wanted to ride on my shoulders – which gave him a totally different perspective as we made our way.
Although my wife chooses not to appear in these pictures, she was always behind the camera and the foundation of our family as a proud “homemaker” that devoted 100% of her time to “her guys” and our family.
Although Mather AFB and Sacramento, CA, were working out well for us; as a family we couldn’t help missing the life that we had in Germany – and I began investigating opportunities to return overseas on my next Air Force assignment.
It is now late fall – around Thanksgiving 1988; and David continued to be the focus of our attention – as all new parents very well know.
In this series of pictures David is “camping out” downstairs, and has his own area and lots of “little friends” to share it with him.
As any photographer will tell you, for every roll of film you’re lucky to get one or two pictures that actually have all of the elements of a good photo composition.
Just the right amount of sillyness and action along with the vivid colors and little friends in the background made these pictures turn out nicely.
It’s amazing that children can go a mile a minute for hours, and then run out of energy so completely that their sleep is so deep and pure.
The climbing roses continued to fill in the lattice work and trellis over our new back deck, and I guided the new growth by gently weaving the stems through the lattice and tying them to the posts to reach the overhead trellis.
The English Ivy completely covered the planting bed and had now started to edge the deck along the inside of the lattice.
We really appreciated the fireplace and enjoyed the ambiance that it gave to the living room – especially over the holidays.
There is something that is very basic to our inner nature to enjoy a good fire in the fireplace, and it’s these small pleasures that are the most satisfying.
David got out some kitchen plasticware and was playing with them on our new couch in the living room, and the color combinations really worked out well in these pictures.
David didn’t seem to be expecting that the lid would pop up as it did on the beverage container, and the surprise combined with not knowing if he had broken it was classic.
Christmas for us is the best time of the year, and our tree and decorations continued traditions that were well established by now for a young family.
Without losing sight of the real meaning of Christmas, the festive nature of decorations and wrapped presents provides a smorgasbord of choice for the eyes to wander through.
Although we decorate our Christmas trees with candles we don’t light them, which just isn’t worth the risk.
These decorations are the same ones that my wife and I picked out in Germany, and it is important for young families to establish their own traditions early because it helps to define who they are as a family.
This was a special Christmas for us besides the fact that David was now 22 1/2 months old – my wife’s father and David’s “Opa” was here to celebrate it with us from Germany.
Of course with an almost two year old, the majority of gifts under the tree had David’s name on them because children quickly outgrow nearly everything from clothes to toys.
My wife really enjoys decorating and wrapping gifts, so getting everything ready for young eyes to see is really exciting for new parents.
I’ll always enjoy looking at a decorated Christmas tree that is full of color and contrasts, everything that provides a delight for the eyes to focus on.
With every season there is a sense of new beginnings – fresh spring growth, summer fullness, the changing fall colors, winter contrasts – and the decorations of Christmas that rekindles the child in all of us once again.
When you’re a child you can’t wait to be “all grown up,” when the reality all too often means “losing the innocence of childhood” – which is a tragic way to go through life – and requires us to “relearn” what we’ve long forgotten.
Here our German Nutcracker stands his watch over the season of Advent and the twelve days of Christmas – as he still does faithfully each and every year in our home.
Our Nativity scene found a new home this year, moving from the mantel to the nearby chest, providing a focus for the real meaning of Christmas.
Our German light pyramid has been one of the focal points in our family’s Christmas tradition – especially in the evening with the candles lit.
David’s grandfather or “Opa” from Germany made this Christmas a special treat for us, and he and David were very close over the years.
Here David’s grandfather shows him his pocket watch which really intrigued David and held his interest for the longest time trying to see how everything worked.
David and his grandfather were able to share a lot of good quality time together over the holidays, and together we visited many of the tourist areas in and around Sacramento.
There are few things as precious as seeing a young child experiencing his or her first few Christmases – amazed at all they see and experience.
David checked everything out once the decorations and gifts were placed around the tree, and delighted in the fact that our living room was now a Christmas wonderland.
Once the time came to open his presents, David went about his duties in a very workman like manner, at times pausing to reflect on all that he was seeing and experiencing.
It’s not always easy to open things up when you haven’t had a lot of practice, so David examines the box trying to understand how to get “Big Bird” out to play with.
Unwrapping a present is such an act of discovery, and when at first you can’t figure it out the gift reveals itself a little more as the wrapping paper is pulled away.
For parents the best gift of Christmas is the shared joy of watching your child experiencing the wonder of Christmas and knowing that your family has been blessed because of it.
As parents, once you have a child your life changes completely and your adventures in life change as well; as ours did – to focus all the time on David.
From the very first days when he was home from the hospital, David and I wrestled all the time – gently at first of course – but he always had to “struggle” to get free from all of the positions I put him in.
The best thing about wrestling for a child is that it exercises every muscle in their body while having great fun – and it provides lots of physical contact as well…which is good for everyone after all.
After wrestling there was always time to chill out and rest; and more often than not I was the one that needed the most rest!
Even a little guy gets tired after an afternoon of wrestling; and when little guys finally fall asleep…they go deep into dreamland.
My wife and I always thought that David would someday be perfect for the theater, because he was as dramatic and full of life as any child we’ve ever known.
David had lots of “little friends” and his three favorites were – “bear,” “tiger” and “sheep.”
When David wasn’t wrestling with me he often had one of his little friends with him – and put them all through their paces…including wrestling.
With “sheep” under his arm and “bear” at his side, David was full of action and there was never a dull moment around him.
David pauses at the gate into our backyard from the new deck, and the climbing roses and English Ivy were beginning to fill in the lattice work as we had hoped.
David loved nothing better than making a “run for it” whenever he could get away with it, always knowing that it would end up with my wife or I “scooping him up in a giant bear hug” once we caught up with him.
I sanded, primed and painted the deck to ensure that it was splinter free, and it became a great place for David to play during the summer of 1988.
With a small “play pool” and afternoon shade on those long and hot summer days, the deck was an ideal family “hang out” and a safe place for David to play outside.
The deck was a perfect place for David to take his tricycle for a spin, and every day he seemed to change and grow up right before our eyes.
The amazing thing about children is their pure emotional innocence; they don’t mask emotion…and what you see is what you get.
The other end of the deck was now finished as well, and the sharp line of the gray paint up against the brown exterior fence made for a nice contrast.
David’s “Mickey Mouse Train” got quite a workout on the deck, as it glided very nicely across the painted surface in any direction.
A child’s “emotional honesty” is so refreshing to see because there is no masking their emotion, and once a child learns how to hide their emotions to be more “grown up” there is a complete loss of innocence that is actually quite tragic.
We brought our parakeets outside whenever we could, and always gave them the option of either being in the sun or the shade – and for our birds going outside was always a pleasure.
As long as we were outside with him, David had the entire backyard to run in and explore; and everyone knows that it’s best to run through the thick green grass barefoot…of course.
Our little “Surfer Dude” was clearly becoming his own man, with a spunk and attitude that gave him confidence to challenge and conquer his world.
By definition, when you have children you should give them as much freedom as possible to explore their world – all the while staying safe of course; and from the beginning you prepare to let them fly away from the nest on their own one day.
David runs through a natural setting in Portland, Oregon, where we took a vacation up to the great northwest; and also visited family and friends in Vancouver and Bellevue Washington.
Here David checks out the deck and a lounge chair while visiting relatives in Bellevue, Washington – who spoiled all three of us like there was no tomorrow.
David and I ride an indoor merry-go-round during our trip up to the northwest, and I think we both enjoyed it more than we expected to.
One of the great pleasures of being a parent is being able to experience again the innocent joys of childhood – without embarrassment.
One of the keys to mastering life, in many ways, is to never lose the innocence of youth – and retain the joys of looking at life through the eyes of a child.
In the spring of 1988 we were well established and enjoying our new home in Sacramento that we had purchased the year before, and my wife was doing a wonderful job of adding her decorating touches to every room.
We used to go for walks as a family every evening through the nearby fields and new housing subdivisions being built at the time, and here I am in our front yard with David and our dog, Mädchen – which means “little girl” in German.
Another picture of David, Mädchen and I in our front yard in Sacramento, ready to begin a family walk in the late afternoon setting sun.
David is about 15 months old at this point and enjoys “play time” in the backyard, as our newly planted landscaping in the background begins to show the first colors of spring.
David had such a presence and personality from the very beginning, and I have never seen a child enjoy such a heartfelt belly laugh as he could produce.
We were often left in stitches as David found humor and mischief in the most routine of places, giving my wife and I the most unexpected of gifts.
My wife and I were always kept on our toes, and never new what to expect when David found humor in the most sneaky and unexpected pleasures; and from the very beginning David shared his mother’s sense of humor – and she could read his thoughts like a book.
My wife knitted little sweaters and outfits for David when he was just a little munchkin – and here is an example.
This is another matching knitted set that my wife made for David when he was still very young – her touches were on everything, defining who we were as a young family.
My wife’s mother and grandmother visited us from Germany that spring, and we toured the Napa Valley one weekend and this vinyard reminded us of the Mosel vinyards back home in Germany.
Another beautiful Napa Valley property that I photographed during our trip, but I don’t recall where it was or what winery it belonged to.
The sign on this Napa Valley winery says Sutter Home, and the palm trees were an exotic touch that we all enjoyed on a beautiful sunny day.
We visited San Francisco, and here is a picture of Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Wharf, with Alcatraz Island in the background on a “picture perfect day” in the Bay Area.
We visited the Golden Gate Bridge, and I really like this picture of the entire bay area captured while driving on the freeway with a clear view of the City – while the foreground remains a blur.
David and I go for walk in a San Francisco park during our visit; we were “best buddies” from the very beginning – and you can tell from this picture that David is the very image of his mom…which was a good move on his part!
Our dining room table is all set for Easter “Coffee and Cake” with my wife’s hand made cake decorated with little yellow chicks on the table and her handmade lace curtain in the window; in Germany “Coffee and Cake” is a wonderful 4:00 p.m. break in the day – and my favorite German tradition!
Here David enjoys having his picture taken in our living room rocking chair, which was our way of measuring his progress against the back cushion as he continued to grow into a big boy, seemingly right before our eyes.
I constructed an enclosed deck and overhead trellis around our back porch, which gave David a safe place to play outside, right out our kitchen sliding glass doors; and here I am finishing the first coat of white paint on the overhead trellis.
David inspects our front yard landscape to see if it meets with his approval, and enjoys the new spring flower beds that my wife and I have planted.
David checks to see if the planter on our front porch needs watering; from the very beginning he was like a “little man” with a thoughtful and almost grown up mentality about him – because that’s the way we always treated him.
David pauses for a moment with his inspection tour of our front yard landscaping almost finished – I think we received a passing grade in the end; and his yellow spring clothes contrasted nicely with the deep green grass and background flowers.
David investigates his own shadow in our front yard, and what an amazing experience it must be for children to see and learn about something brand new every day of their young lives – like the innocence of investigating their own shadow.
David points out something in the front yard and his finger seems to not be pointing where his eyes are looking – just a minor technicality when you’re a little guy.
Once I finished painting the white lattice work and overhead trellis, it was time to turn my attention to the deck itself; and in the meantime David investigates the patterns of lattice work, shadows and a white chair on a beautiful California day.
David checks out the gate into the rest of the back yard, and with the white paint finished it was time to train the new climbing roses and English Ivy to climb up to the overhead trellis; the only place the structure attached to the house was at the overhang in the right corner with a metal brace.
I was quite proud of our newly built enclosed deck and overhead trellis work, and the fact that I did it all with only handtools and my own original design was especially satisfying to me.
David was born in February of 1987, which made us a little family of three – and the joy he brought to our lives was the best gift that we could have ever asked for.
David captured our love and attention from the very moment he was born – and instantly became the love of our lives and the best thing that ever happened to us.
When we first moved to Sacramento, we rented an older house closer to downtown that wasn’t right for us; so we bought a house right away – and David greeted us every morning standing in his crib full of enthusiasm for the new day.
David was a very special boy right from the beginning, with a big smile and a great disposition; and we always put plenty of little “friends” in his crib with him to focus his attention on when we weren’t there.
After a long day of going full speed, our son David conked out with his friend “Mickey” in his arms – and it is in quiet moments like this when parents feel specially blessed.
David always had the biggest belly laugh when he was little and was full of fun and spirit; and when he first called me “Mark” instead of “Daddy” that was fine with me – and we’ve been best buddies ever since.
When David was little, the rocking chair was a good way to measure his progress while growing up – every day he seemed to be bigger than the day before.
David and I at Christmas time in front of our fireplace with the nativity scene set up on the mantel – being parents was the best Christmas gift ever.
This was the best Christmas ever for me, I had a beautiful wife and son – and the gift of parenthood was the best present that we could have ever received.
I collected porcelain Nao nativity figurines during my many trips to Spain while stationed in Germany, and this nativity scene was just right for our fireplace mantel.
Our nativity scene would become a family tradition for us, adding a piece here and there over the years; and traditions are important for a young family to establish – to have something they can call their own.
Here’s our German light pyramid and nutcracker – all in natural wood finishes – which also became a family tradition for us; this original light pyramid was given to a friend to enjoy many years later.
For David’s first Christmas, Santa brought a lot a packages for him to enjoy opening; and the gift wrapping held his interest more than the presents did.
Here’s our Christmas tree in 1987 with the original ornaments that my wife and I bought together in Germany – photographed from the top of our staircase.
This first Christmas with David was very special for us, and helped establish family traditions for us that have continued on year after year for 24 years now – with many more to look forward to!
The 455th FTS hired a professional painter to paint the squadron’s patch on the right “long side” of the squadron’s building at Mather AFB, CA.
The professional painter did a very good job of accurately reproducing our squadron’s patch; his patch is shown here on the right.
Here’s a closer look at the professional’s rendition of our 455th Flying Training Squadron’s patch.
Here is a close up of his patch; he did a fine job and matched our patch’s details exactly.
Afterwards, I asked permission to paint our patch over the entry doors into the squadron, and permission was granted.
I had painted a lot of squadron patches previously; both at Homestead AFB, FL, and Spangdahlem AB, Germany.
This patch is about seven feet across and I abbreviated our squadron’s name to “455th FTS;” and in the process I used my mountain climbing ropes, tied off on the roof, to stay safe and not fall off the ladder by accident while painting.
I helped design the squadron’s new floorplan for the building’s renovation work that was done after we moved into the building, and I also helped paint a classroom in a camouflage paint scheme.
This is probably the only “455th FTS” version of our patch that was ever made; and it was all done freehand with a string, a pencil and a yardstick.
After finishing painting the squadron’s patch, I designed and painted a T-37 mural at our squadron’s “Ops Duty Desk;” which was the very heart of the squadron’s flying operations.
The mural was of a four ship rejoin to fingertip formation, prior to taking the flight up initial; but I only painted three “Tweets,” and you have to imagine yourself as the flight lead looking back over your left shoulder at the rejoin to your left wing.
“Tweets 3 and 4” continue the rejoin to the formation’s left side; the mural was my last artwork project that I ever attempted, and allowed me plenty of artistic license in the process. (I’m only my own house painter these days…)
I had a couple of guys volunteer to help finish up the edges of the blue sky background; as this was a big project to complete.
The blue sky background is graduated in shades of blue; darker at the bottom and lighter at the top.
Here’s an unobstructed view from the mural’s right side; all of our pilots checked out at the “Ops Duty Desk” prior to flying and back in after returning from their training sorties.
Crews received their aircraft’s tail number, latest updates, NOTAM changes and weather information from the “Duty Officer” here at the Ops Desk.
Here’s another look from the left side of the mural; the “Ops Duty Desk” was the very hub and heart of the squadron.
The mural was painted directly onto the pony wall; so I have no idea what happened to it when Mather AFB closed, and other organizations later took over the property.
Here’s “number 3” on the left side beginning the rejoin to fingertip, with “number 4” trailing behind him on the far outside of the formation.
I put as much detail into the main T-37 “Tweet” as I could; as well as the two smaller T-37’s in the mural.
Here’s “number 4” just beginning the rejoin on the far left side to “number 3’s” left wing; I first came up with the design concept, and now attempt to “construct” a real world scenario that makes sense for it to have actually happened! 🙂
A close-up view of “number 4;” the flaw is in the photograph at this high resolution – the pictures have been in a photo album for 27 years now!