AWAI Writing Challenge Honorable Mention:
Giving Thanks to the Man Who Brought My Dreams to Life

When AWAI announced this new writing challenge around the Thanksgiving holiday, I had to smile. I instantly knew who I would be honoring this Thanksgiving Day.

But I have a small problem.

Words simply aren’t enough.

Not even close.

Not when the recipient has devoted their life to give you a better one.

Not when they’ve spent hundreds of sleepless nights worrying about how they’re going to keep you warm, dry and fed.

Without a doubt, I owe this person an enormous debt of gratitude for what they’ve given up, to give me so many priceless opportunities over the years.

And especially for all the times they’ve been there when I needed a boost, a reason to laugh, or even a magic carpet ride.

I mean really. How many folks can truthfully say they’ve been on a genuine magic carpet?

Well I have.

I was a gangling 11-year old kid at the time, completely obsessed with anything with wings. Posters, pictures, books, magazines and most important of all, models.

The ceiling in my bedroom was covered with model airplanes engaged in silent dogfights.

From WWII prop fighters to Vietnam-era jets, you name the aircraft and chances are it was on the ceiling, on the card table assembly line or in the closet paint shop.

And so it was on a South Dakota Spring day, May 5th, 1974 – I got my magic carpet ride. Glued to the window of a Cessna Skyhawk, I watched in wide-eyed wonder as the ground fell away and we climbed into the sky.

Trees became dots. Cattle became specs and cars were like tiny toy Hot WheelsÒ. And my destiny was set.

Have you ever had a one of those life-defining moments where it all crystallized for you? Where you suddenly knew what your life would be about?

The moment we lifted off the ground I knew I’d be a pilot.

Period.

When the plane landed I was still up there chasing clouds with an enthusiasm for flying that never dimmed.

Six short years later, while still a senior in high school, I became a Private Pilot and I’ve been flying ever since. Civilian planes, then military hardware, then back to civilian aircraft.

So you see, I have a real dilemma here. I mean, how in the world can I say “Thanks” to someone who literally brought my highest dreams to life?

How do I honor someone who put their busy life as a successful entrepreneur, rancher and cowboy, on hold so they could help me launch my own story?

Simple.

By dedicating my life as a daily living example and a lasting tribute to this person who gave me so much.

And that’s why this Thanksgiving Holiday’s for you, Dad.

Even though you earned your own set of wings 12 years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t reflect on and appreciate your wisdom and guidance.

Thank you again for everything you’ve given me.

And Thank You too, AWAI, for helping us all appreciate this holiday much more deeply.

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Published: November 19, 2009

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