My son Seth completed Naval Air Training Command at Naval Air Station Kingsville and the designation ceremony was scheduled on the U.S.S. Lexington. This Essex class carrier had been originally launched in 1942 and had served in various capacities until 1992 when she was retired and became a museum ship in Corpus Christi, Texas. It is on the same ship that I made my first carrier arrested landings in a T-28C Bureau Number 131187 on March 13th, 1969.
For my designation ceremony on July 11th, 1969, my father and my 10 year-old brother Scott, flew down to Pensacola. For Seth’s ceremony in June 2002, my brother Scott and his eldest son, Philip, flew from New York to Corpus Christi. It was that important to Scott to watch his nephew have his wings pinned on him by his brother 33 years after he had watched our dad pin them on me.
My wife and I were supposed to take a Southwest flight to Corpus but the weather was awful. Our flight was canceled and we drove for seven hours through the same rain and thunderstorms. There was no way I was going to miss this ceremony.
The sun was out when we walked up the brow to the elevator where visitors boarded the ship. Since I was in dress blues, I saluted the flag at the stern and the retired chief petty officer who was a volunteer guide returned my salute as I said, “I have permission to come aboard.” He stepped to the side and rang the bell before announcing via the ship’s main communication system, “Captain, United States Navy, arriving.”
He put his bosun’s whistle to his mouth to “pipe” me aboard and I waited until the sounds of the whistle died away before I walked with my family to our designated seats on the hangar deck in front of a stage. As a family member of one of the officers who would receive their wings, we had assigned seats close to the front.
Since I was scheduled to go up on stage, my daughter Michele, nephew Philip and wife Betty slid into the row of chairs next to me. Scott settled into a seat leaving an empty one between us. I asked him to slide over, but he said “No, Dad is sitting here”. Even though we could not see it, Dad’s presence was clearly felt. I was sure he was smiling. If he’d been there physically, we would have both gone up on the stage.
When it was Seth’s turn, the rear admiral conducting the winging ceremony called me to the stage. I saluted him and turned to Seth. From my set of dress blues, I removed my original set of gold Naval Aviator Wings and held them up saying, “These are my original set of wings and it is my pleasure to pin them on my son. Seth is a third-generation military aviator. His grandfather was also an Air Force Command Pilot.”
From that day on my son Seth Liebman has worn his wings with pride. He is now a Commander and Naval Aviator who flew the F/A-18.
© Marc Liebman, March 2018, all rights reserved