Flight for Freedom

By: Mckenna  Wharton Centennial 7th Grader

Non-staff Contributor

My‌ ‌name‌ ‌is‌ ‌Carter‌ ‌Mason‌, ‌it’s‌ ‌what‌ ‌was‌ ‌written‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌birth‌ ‌certificate‌ ‌so‌ ‌it‌ ‌was‌ ‌what‌ ‌I‌ ‌wrote‌ ‌

down‌ ‌and‌ on ‌the‌ ‌application‌ ‌form‌ ‌they‌ ‌handed‌ ‌me‌, ‌the‌ ‌one‌ ‌that‌ ‌would‌ ‌get‌ ‌me‌ ‌into‌ ‌air‌ ‌force‌ ‌training‌. ‌

It‌ ‌was‌ ‌great‌ ‌no‌ ‌girls‌ ‌were‌ ‌able‌ ‌to‌ ‌get‌ ‌into‌ ‌the‌ ‌Military,‌ ‌Air‌ ‌Force,‌ ‌or‌ ‌Navy‌, ‌but‌ ‌I‌ ‌cut‌ ‌my‌ ‌hair‌ ‌

smudged‌ ‌some‌ ‌dirt‌ ‌on‌ ‌my‌ ‌face‌ ‌and‌ ‌walked‌ ‌right‌ ‌up‌. They accepted me and I almost immediately went into training. It was practically my dream, my dad and I would go into the shop and use the leftover change from my mother’s market to buy tools,  we would make our own plane and helicopter models at least that was before the accident . At first training was complicated and confusing but it eventually got easier and more enjoyable  as I started to understand what was going on, but it was still difficult trying to appear as if I were a boy with short hair and deep voice. As training went on the war got closer to ending and at points I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to fly and fight in the war. I wanted to fight, fighting would be like a dedication  for my father who did everything he could to help and teach me what I knew about planes and engineering. But what if I never got to fight training would have been for nothing. And if I did go to Vietnam there was a big chance that I would never come back, but I couldn’t think about that not right now I told myself I went into the barracks,  I didn’t have much to unpack like some people. In fact all I had were the clothes on my body. Instead I just went  to sleep, I wasn’t asleep for long I had dreams the same dreams I had ever since my father died, I thought I would be used to them by now, I got up to go get some water and a young boy with curly blonde hair  was there he was almost a few years older than I was and was a lot taller “Can’t sleep?” he asked me. “Nah I get dreams,” I uttered.

 “Thought those were supposed to be about rainbows and unicorns.” I laughed at this.

 “Don’t we all wish.” 

“I’m James.” 

“Carter,” he nodded.

 “Well see you at practice.” The week after that was hard learning how to fly and training for if we got shot down, even though most of us know that there was not a very good chance of surviving if we did. James and I would race and compete in everything we did. We would bet each other on what the lunch would be that day. One morning when we woke up training was cancelled we walked out confused, but not annoyed. After around a month of training for fifteen hours a day we were all ready for a break but as I walked out James looked at me with wide eyes and I noticed why on the events board there was a sheet of paper almost pure white and on it stated thirty names. These people were going to be the first people to go to Vietnam. Pilots flooded the sheet of paper and crowded around it wondering if their names would be on it or if they would have to wait for the next round of troops to be picked.  James and I squeezed through the crowd which wasn’t very hard because we were the youngest pilots in the group but we realized that it was a useless attempt because our names were not on the sheet of paper.  I shrugged and we got to breakfast. “ I wonder if they go by age?” thought James aloud. But I wasn’t listening as there was a big pile of powdered eggs on my plate.   People who were going to fight and not one was me, so I tried even harder in training, eventually running ahead and flying faster than anyone else.  James started to tease me because I had won the last couple of races we had. I shrugged at the comments, “I just want to be noticed so that I can be picked.” and over and over he would reply,

 “I’m pretty sure that they go by age.” 

“What if they don’t think I’m good enough, how crazy would that be?” I started ranting on and on about the situations that could possibly happen. A couple of days later the same thing happened training was canceled and a new list put up “this is it.” I told James. 

“Nah we’re going to be the last to go because they’re going by age.” 

“Let’s go check,” I said.

 I felt  just like I was a little girl when my parents told me we were going on a road trip. I ran up and looked at the paper and again my name wasn’t on it. I sighed, I’m never going to go. I was disappointed. Am I just not good enough or was it the fools in charge of picking who was going that weren’t smart enough to see that I was ready to go. 

That night I met James for our night game of chess and we were talking about who was going when he said “ yeah it’s really a shame that they’re going by age or we probably would have been picked by now.” 

I looked up, “THEY’RE GOING BY AGE?” I shouted.

 “Umm yeah, I’ve said that fifty times, ”he laughed. 

A month later there was one group, it was the  last one and it was all  younger kids, there were ten of us left. I looked at James excited but nervous because the next day training was canceled and a sheet of paper was put up,  and I felt as if I was going to puke but the next day I got into my helicopter and left finally realizing what I was getting into but it was to late now I needed to do this.  I didn’t have a choice now anyway. I did feel a little bit better when  I got into the helicopter. It was my comfort zone, a place where I felt free. I didn’t need to worry here, not at least until we got out onto the battlefield so that when I can help other people win this thing. I marked the day on a piece of paper and put it in my pocket April 29th, 1975.  It felt like a good day to do something historical. I took a deep breath and started moving. When we got to the base camp, there weren’t a lot of people there. some I noticed from other squads that went out before ours, some from other corps. We stayed an hour or two until we got our call, our trip there was pretty quick. We flew over deserted camps and places that had been bombed, but nothing was as bad as what I saw as we neared the battlefield. There were bodies everywhere, the ground looked like it was stained red from the blood  and there was smoke almost enough that we couldn’t see where we were going. But the most horrifying part was the shrapnel bombs that were flying everywhere! I was smite with fear of the destruction and I didn’t realize that a bomb was right there, oming closer and closer to the engine of the exact helicopter I was in when it hit! The impact was so hard it shattered the glass and shredded any skin that I left uncovered. It burned but that was the least of my worries. I was falling and fast,  gravity was not on my side and everything was getting hot. The fire was burning closer to the cockpit and I was sure it was going to reach me before I even landed.  Geeze I thought, yeah great time to do something historical.  The rest was all a blur.  The flames got so close I ended up getting at least a third degree burn and then the helicopter pounded  into the ground and I hit my head and crashed into the dashboard. The door flung open from the impact and I somehow got out.  After that I was dizzy and bleeding badly but I was somehow still standing, until  a bomb went off right behind me. Shrapnel dug into my skin, hitting me in the back and legs I lost my breath. I felt my blood running down my back then everything went black and I hit the ground. Finally things started to come more into focus but I didn’t understand why nobody was here fighting. Either way I was thirsty so I tried to get up and walk over to a canteen lying on the ground but after I felt the pain in my back and legs. I realized walking was not going to be possible,  not until I could get help. I started to panic how long had I been knocked out it couldn’t be too long or I would be dead.  The actual dead people were starting to smell, it was giving me a headache and didn’t help anything.  I needed a plan to get out of here, but that wasn’t possible until I could actually get around efficiently.  I finally got to a water jug that wasn’t empty and drank it. I sighed in relief as the cool drink slid down my tongue and into my throat. I layed down on my stomach thinking about what I was going to do now that I was trapped here.


To Be Continued…