I came upon this book in a rather unusual way for me I had just dropped off my third child at preschool and decided to go to the base to do a little shopping. On the way in to the Bas Exchange I noticed a fellow setup just outside the entrance selling a book. I didn’t have a whole lot of time so I just passed him by on the way inside and didn’t give him a second thought. I ended up getting my shopping done rather quickly and was thinking to myself what my boy and I could do with this unexpected free time we had.
It was then that I was stepping back out of the Exchange, not really seeing what was around me since I was wool gathering, when a voice says to me “Hey, do you like good books?” Well that snapped me back to reality and I stopped and turned towards the direction of the voice. Now anyone that knows me knows I love a good book and usually keep a couple on me at all times so to say that I was interested would be an understatement. Once I turned I quickly saw that the voice belonged to an older African-American man that was seated at a table piled up with copies of a single book.
It took a millisecond for my brain to kick in and tell me that this was the same fellow I’d passed by on the way inside. So as not to be rude I answered his question “yeah, I love a good book.” He smiled and introduced himself as the author of the book he was holding and proceeded to tell me a bit about it while handing me a copy to look over. I was skeptical that the book would be any good but decided to leaf through it while listening to him talk about some of the events that took place in the book. The more he talked the more I liked him and the more interesting the book sounded. We must have talked for the better part of an hour before I decided to take the book home and give it a good once over.
When I got back home I read up a bit on the author and saw that he was a retired Colonel from the USAF and had been a fighter pilot. I also noticed that it was an inspirational memoir. At that point I almost closed the book for good since I’d spent some time around some fighter pilots in the past that were way to cocky and full of themselves for my taste and I didn’t really think I’d want to read the memoir of one. I put the book down and went to pick out another book to read but while looking my thoughts kept coming back to the conversation I’d had with Col. Toliver and I decided to give it 1 chapter. I figured I’d know by then if it was worth reading or not.
Well I started reading and quickly found myself captivated by the story of this young black kid living in Louisiana during the 50’s. I was chilled by the account he gave of his family’s flight from the Klu Klux Klan and how his father narrowly escaped a lynching by moving the family to California for a couple of years. Further into the story I see a young black man that is working to help put food on the table while he tried to get into college. Then I find him at Tuskegee and later realize that he’s a second generation Tuskegee Airman and was instructed by some of the original Airmen. The undercurrent was the racial strife that was playing out in the background especially in Alabama.
This plays a key role as you see time and time again how race and racial stereotypes were an issue that he had to overcome. You can feel the awe the man felt at meeting Jackie Robinson at a talk held at his church. One of the things that stood out the most in this young man’s mind was Mr. Robinson’s absence of anger. This hit close to home for the young man as he was trying to deal with his own anger and resentment that had been building up over the years. Not long afterwards he had the chance to meet and hear a gifted young minister named Martin Luther King Jr. give a talk at his church and etched into his mind what Dr. King had to say about the use of non-violence in everything they did. You could see the man get bitter over the way he was treated as he tried to forge a military career while being stationed in the Deep South and the pain he felt for his kinsmen during Bloody Sunday in Selma Alabama.
Later in the story he talks about his 2 tours in Vietnam as well as the positive effects the steadfast faith of his wife, as well as quite a few good friends have on him and how he was able to overcome his hatred and bitterness. This is the story of a man that overcame great adversary and hardship in his life, starting out as the great grandson of a slave to working alongside such people as Ross Perot. This is a story that I recommend to everyone as I think you will enjoy it as much as I did and even learn a few things as well. I give it a 5 out of 5 stars and say that this really is a must read.