As we ran on the road or the beach we could be heard singing, “GI beans and GI gravy…gee I wish I’d of joined the Navy.” That is a phrase from a jody we used to sing when I was in the Marine Corps. It was a tongue in cheek way of complaining about the chow hall food. Many in the military do wonder what it would have been like in another branch of service. I will never forget the great opportunity I had to stand on the deck of the USS Constellation while at sea in the Persian Gulf. Although by then I had crossed from the Marine Corps to the Air Force, it was a dream come true to see what it was like to be on a ship at sea.
I sure wouldn’t want to be on one all the time, but the six hours we were aboard was incredible. We stood on the deck as the planes were being launched and were brought back on deck for the recovery of the planes. I recall worrying a little about how close we were to the cable that the planes would hook into when they landed. The only thing they wouldn’t let us see was the enlisted living area. We were shown the admiral’s quarters, which was about the size of a small hotel room. Of course, I was aware of how junior enlisted have to “hot bunk” it on these ships and have only a small area that they can call home even if they have to share the sleeping space with someone on an opposite shift.
Then there was the time that I got to ride in the back seat of an F-16 Fighting Falcon. What an amazing trip that was as we flew up the Rhine River and back down the Mosel before turning east to go back to Ramstein Air Base, Germany. As we had initially sat on the runway preparing to take off, I was amazed at how the sudden acceleration pressed me into the seat as if I was about to melt into it. As we burst through the cloud cover it was amazing to be atop the cloudy carpet beneath our fuselage. The pilot, Capt. Mark McCarthy, gave me control of the stick while I performed an aileron roll. What an amazing experience it was despite the fact I found a use for the airsick bag halfway through the trip.
Sadly, Mark McCarthy died in an F-16 approximately 13 months later as his plane crashed into the Adriatic Sea off of the coast of Italy. It was a very sad day when I found out that Mark had died. It was rather surreal as I realized he had died in a cockpit similar to what I had shared with him. He left a beautiful wife and three young boys behind. His widow, Patty McCarthy Broderick has written a book (He Said Press) about the experience. It is a great account to share with someone who is struggling with grief.
Certainly I experienced exhilaration on the USS Constellation and streaking through the German skies in a Fighting Falcon. But, the greatest thrill I will ever receive is when my heart beats for the last time and I enter the glories of heaven. What a day that will be to finally look on Jesus Christ the one that loved me so much he died for me. I want to see my father Gordon Barnes again. I look forward to seeing my two grandmothers again. I want to reminisce with Mark McCarthy about our F-16 journey. But, I sure hope those folks will forgive me if I rush right past them so I can see the scars of the nails in the hands of Jesus Christ. What a day that will be and what a Savior!