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The Story of a True Top Gun Pilot

Updated on March 17, 2013

A Top Gun Story

My dad is a true Top Gun pilot.

This is a fact about him that I found out later on in life.

He has the impression that he mentioned it earlier and wasn't keeping it from me, but I distinctly remember seeing the movie Top Gun, and not knowing I was sitting next to one.

That would have made me pretty cool back in school, I thought to myself upon this discovery.

To him, it was a part of what he experienced while serving his country, not something to boast about. (The last part I figured out on my own)

I will never forget my sister's reaction when she found out, that our dad was a true hero to put it mildly.

Top Gun Award 1971

Initial Training of a Future Top Gun Pilot

1. In 1962 I enlisted straight out of school. I took equivalency exams and interviews to apply to Navy Flight Training as a NavCad (Naval Aviation Cadet). The usual prerequisite was having a 4 year college degree, and I went straight from high school.

*This information was offered to me after I asked him about his experience in the Navy, which I learned of after I had turned 30, only because I had never asked. All pictures are of him*

The following numbered points throughout are my dad's exact words, so other than a couple edits, I am leaving them be.

You will see them listed numerically, and that is the completion of what he mentioned, do you notice one point that he left out?

Yes, you guessed it, The Top Gun Award.

A True Top Gun

A Tribute To My Father - My sister made this tribute to my father, which essentially inspired me to make this page.

Birth of a Top Gun Pilot - 2. I was accepted into flight training and commenced PreFlight school in Pensacola in 1963 at the age 19.

Young Start - 3. Soloed in T34 primary trainer in the fall 1963 at age 19.

Age of 20 *That is him in the jet* - 4. Started carrier landings in T28 Trojan in June 1964.

Advanced Training

5. Out of 130 students that finished prop basic training, I was one of 2 selected to go to Jet advanced training.

The other was Tony Nargi, who was a Naval Academy graduate. June 1964.

6. Completed jet advanced training and designated US Naval Aviator and commissioned an ensign in April 1965, one month after reaching age 21.

Deployed - 7. Deployed to Vietnam December 1965 aboard USS Ranger with Attack Squadron 55 flying A4 Skyhawk aircraft. Second cruise aboard USS Constellation abo

Three Years Later - 8. This sea tour was completed early 1968 with 230 combat missions and several medals at age 23.

Now an Instructor - 9. Rotated to "shore duty" as an instructor in VT-23, advanced jet training in Kingsville Texas, and at age 23, I had 2 cruises of combat ex

Youngest Most Highly Decorated Lieutenant in the US Navy

10. In 1968, was personally invited to the Navy - Marine Corps Ball in Dallas, TX as the youngest/highest decorated Lieutenant in the Navy.

(Distinguished Flying Cross, several Air Medals and Navy Commendation Medals for combat missions).


The Distinguished Flying Cross

The Distinguished Flying Cross is a medal awarded to any officer or enlisted member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself or herself in support of operations by "heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial flight, subsequent to November 11, 1918."

The decoration may also be given for an act performed prior to that date when the individual has been recommended for, but has not received the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross or Distinguished Service Medal.

Source: Wikipedia

Image U.S. Federal Government

Distinguished Flying Cross Number 1

Distinguished Flying Cross number 2 - 11. Second tour to Vietnam with 2 cruises aboard USS Midway, flying in an A7 Corsair aircraft, amassing a total of 374 com

Distinguished Flying Cross Number 3 - His humbly spoken exact words: "The DFC is the third highest Navy award, and I have 3 of them."

Even a Top Gun Can be Shot Down

He still flew some missions afterwards, and here are some other mentions.

12. Shot down over North Vietnam morning of November 11, 1972 at about 2 O'clock in the morning and was rescued by a helicopter. I had been hit about 5 miles inland, but managed to nurse the aircraft long enough that I landed about one and a half miles off the coast.

The rescue is almost a story in itself.

The helicopter had no doppler radar (to enable them to hover over a point during rough night conditions) and the crew was not night qualified.

13. Selected to deliver the first 500 lb Walleye (TV guided bomb) in Vietnam in 1972.

The importance of this was such that BDA (Bomb Damage Assessment) photos were shown to President Nixon within 24 hours, showing the destroyed bridge, and demonstrating the accuracy of the weapon.

Honorably Discharged

Onto telecommunications

14. Honorable discharge July 1973 with a total of about 680 carrier landings (probably 250 at night) about 3,000 jet hours, with a commercial plus instrument pilot rating as well as multi-engine centerline thrust.

Then acquired a CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) rating intending to teach flying. This did not pay much, so I ended up working high-tech telecommunications for the last 25 years.

I Asked What Distinguished Him Out of My Own Curiousity

15. An aspect that is unique about me is the young age that I had performed many of these accomplishments. And not many pilots have the number/type of medals that I have been awarded. The DFC is the third highest Navy award, and I have 3 of them.

He currently enjoys a nice serene life in Florida, on a boat for 8 years as the resident handyman, and now in a nice peaceful house.

*Update, he has since moved the the well known retirement community in Florida called 'The Villages".

I would say he is most deserving of a nice retirement :)

He is holding onto two of life's essentials in this picture taken in his driveway at the time, a boat dock in Miami.

Traffic Jam At The Villages

Carrier Landing - This is what it looks like when landing a jet on a carrier. Pay attention to how small the carrier looks...... I did this 675 times, and at le

October 9, 2012 - Thank You So Much Everyone For So Many Great Comments and the Recognition

I am swamped at work and am going to respond, but wanted to say something.

What an awesome way to start the day!

I have told my dad about this and he really appreciates all the kind words very much, as do I, and my sister who created the video tribute above.

I personally always wanted him to be recognized for these achievements and this means a lot :)

This is also my first purple star and LOTD, and I also let him know that, and felt that this was a perfect place for that to happen.


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    • profile image

      Namsak 4 years ago

      I have read a lot about the Vietnam war, especially the air war and I know your dad must have some real tales to tell. Politicians often mess things up but the personnel at the sharp end were all heroes.

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

      @GarySpeer: Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

      @Sojourn: Thanks so much Sojourn

    • GarySpeer profile image

      GarySpeer 5 years ago

      What a great story -- and a fascinating lens! Thanks so much!

    • profile image

      Sojourn 5 years ago

      What a beautiful way to recognize your dad and his accomplishments. I can't imagine being only 23 and having FINISHED two tours already and that many missions? What true commitment and dedication. He's obviously a very special person and he's raised some very special children. Excellent lens and your LOTD was certainly well deserved. (Thanks to Charles for sharing this lens with me!)

    • whiteskyline lm profile image

      whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

      @gpoppa: Thanks!

    • profile image

      gpoppa 5 years ago

      Very nice tribute.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      A wonderful tribute! Thanks for sharing this story - Blessed!

    • ParentsRus profile image

      ParentsRus 5 years ago

      You are a very lucky man to have a father like this. He has lived the life many of us can only dream about. Please ask him if he could write an autobiography. I will buy the book. Your video montage was excellent as well, using ELO for the music was cool. My best wishes to him for serving his country and helping keep the peace during those turbulent times.

    • greendoggie lm profile image

      greendoggie lm 5 years ago

      What a nice tribute to your dad. Thanks for his service to our country.

    • profile image

      kayla_harris 5 years ago

      He is a really great man!

    • profile image

      Geissral 5 years ago

      What a great story! Amazing man, amazing dad! My admiration! Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • sittonbull profile image

      sittonbull 5 years ago

      Couldn't pass up reading this lens as your dad and I are the same age, and my perspective was from the ground, but I'm familiar with the great accomplishments that he and his mates performed at great risk and in harm's way. What a great tribute it is for you and your sister to honor his service an his amazing record in this way! Congratulations on a well deserved LOTD and purple star. I particularly like your motto and close with it as a salute~, "Live life how you wish to, follow your bliss, take action, prioritize happiness, your hobbies and passions into your life. ~ Carpe Diem!"

    • Michelle Hogan profile image

      Michelle Hogan 5 years ago

      Trust a Fighter Pilot? Absolutely.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 5 years ago

      You've got a great Dad. Hugs to you and him and your sister. d

    • Pat Goltz profile image

      Pat Goltz 5 years ago

      Please tell your dad from me, Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service. I know a lot of people were critical. I have always supported our actions; we saved millions of lives and protected hundreds of millions of people from communist tyranny, through your service. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • FrankMeney profile image

      FrankMeney 5 years ago

      Simply amazing story of an awesome man....

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your Dad's story! It is a lovely tribute!

    • profile image

      NewUsedCarsSacramento 5 years ago

      Lovely lens! My salute for him.

      and congratulations on LOTD

    • NightMagic profile image

      NightMagic 5 years ago

      What a great story about a very great man. Thanks for sharing his story with us.

    • kevin pachingel profile image

      kevin pachingel 5 years ago

      a truly great it

    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Congratulations on winning the Lens of The Day (LOTD)!!!

    • PaigSr profile image

      PaigSr 5 years ago from State of Confussion

      I have two uncles both retired military. I haven't figured out how to brag about them online. But I haven't given up yet. With sites like this it is good encouragement.

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 5 years ago from Silicon Valley

      An amazing story and so glad you were able to learn about him and share with all of us. Blessed!

    • mimisventures lm profile image

      mimisventures lm 5 years ago

      Great story about an obviously great man. Many thank to him for his service and dedication to this country! Congrats on your LotD and your Purple Star. Very well done and much deserved. I know he is as proud of you and your sister as you two are of him.

    • Jack2205 profile image

      Jack 5 years ago

      Excellent story. Congratulations on lens of the day and the purple star!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      And I thank my daughter for putting together the video. The pictures were from about 1966 off the coast of Viet Nam, and show me launching on a mission. I cannot watch that video without having a few tears in my eyes. Thanks kids!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am honored by the lens my son has written. I have heart felt appreciation for the many, many comments that have been added and thank my son for putting this on the web. I am honored to have served this wonderful country and for having the privilege of flying jets for the US Navy. As some of you have commented, there are many, many "unsung heroes" that quietly carry on their lives after serving their country. And congratulations to my son for earning LOTD. :>)

    • Earnlat profile image

      Earnlat 5 years ago

      Wonderful story, say a thanx to your Dad, and congrats to you!!

    • LittleLindaPinda profile image

      Little Linda Pinda 5 years ago from Florida

      This is so wonderful. I love the fact that you are so proud of your dad. Let him know how grateful we are for his service. Congratulations on your first Purple Star Award and the Lens of the Day too. Yeah!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow... what a great story! Congrats on getting lens of the day.

    • profile image

      SkiLoverAlpine 5 years ago

      His story is stunning. Please thank him for what he has given for our country.

    • rawwwwwws lm profile image

      rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

      Great lens, and congratulations on your lens of the day!

    • Rosaquid profile image

      Rosaquid 5 years ago

      Congratulations on your LotD award! Thank you for sharing this. It's fascinating.

    • Mr-Panda LM profile image

      Mr-Panda LM 5 years ago

      Awesome story. I myself am considering being a fighter pilot, but not sure just yet. Thank you for the bio! It's awesome!

    • Mamabyrd profile image

      Mamabyrd 5 years ago

      I absolutely love military stories. God Bless you and your family. Please thank your father for his service.

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      Great story of your Dad. I salute him for defending our country at such a young age and successfully too.

    • nursingstudentb profile image

      nursingstudentb 5 years ago

      A truly amazing story, gave me goose bumps! Reminded me that my grandfather was a hero too....funny thing is, you'd never know it, because your dad's generation and my grandfather's generation were raised right; to not expect recognition. Thanks for the story! +like :)

    • autoturgus lm profile image

      autoturgus lm 5 years ago

      Amazing story. Worth reading!

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 5 years ago from California

      Congratulations on LOTD. What a lovely way to honor your dad. He must also be very proud of you. There are so many heroes out there and nice to have one honored today.

    • Richard-H profile image

      Richard 5 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      So pleased to return here over a year later to find that this wonderful story has received LOTD. Congratulations!

    • profile image

      faye durham 5 years ago

      Congratulations to your dad. Thanks for his dedication and service to our country. Congrats on LOTD.

    • Stephen Lewis profile image

      Stephen Lewis 5 years ago

      What a great story, and so well told. I have worked with a lot of WWII vets over the years. It is seldom possible to get them to tell "war stories." It is just a period that men do not want to relive, even mentally. Thank you for documenting one hero's story so well.

    • gottaloveit2 profile image

      gottaloveit2 5 years ago

      Man, that is one good looking dad you have! Amazing and this certainly deserved LoTD!

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 5 years ago from USA

      I agree, this story is worthy of honor. Thank your Dad for all his service and give him a big hug. Congratulations to you both for this LOTD recognition, for each was needed to bring it into being.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD! well deserved tribute!!! My Veteran (VN) husband and I would like to Thank your dad for his service and courage. Thank God he came back and was able to tell his story. I can't emphasize enough, ask your parents about their history. I waited too long, they are gone, now I only have memories of the little that I know.

      ~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing~

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 5 years ago

      Your father is such a humble man.Congratulation on your LOTD

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 5 years ago

      Your father is such a humble man.Congratulation on your LOTD

    • profile image

      Pete Schultz 5 years ago

      congrats on lotd, nice tribute to a hero. Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      congratulations for LOTD thanks for sharing

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

      Great lens and congratulations on getting LOTD.

    • LornsA178 profile image

      LornsA178 5 years ago

      Excellent tribute to your Dad, he's so blessed having great accomplishments at a very young age. Congrats on Your LOTD.

    • lbrummer profile image

      Loraine Brummer 5 years ago from Hartington, Nebraska

      What a beautiful tribute to your Dad's accomplishments. Congratulations on a well deserves LOTD. God bless you and your Father.

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 5 years ago

      A absolutely awesome tribute to a very special man. I am amazed at all that he accomplished in his early 20's, such big and significant things, what a wonderful example to so many his life is, thank you for putting it in writing, and hugs to your Dad. Love the video your sister did. We are so thankful for our military, and their courage in facing the challenges that they do. Congrats on the LOTD and purple star. So very well deserved.

    • profile image

      olmpal 5 years ago

      Congrats on the Purple star and LOTD!! You must be very proud of your father! He totally deserves the tribute!

    • profile image

      SolarEclipseWatcher 5 years ago

      Incredible. I'm glad he finally shared his story with you.

    • athomemomblog profile image

      Genesis Davies 5 years ago from Guatemala

      Wow, what a cool story! Not only that he was a Top Gun, but that he achieved so much at such a young age. Pretty awesome. Now I think you need to do a lens on that helicopter rescue, that sounds like it needs a lot more elaboration. ;) Congrats on the Purple Star and LOTD!

    • lewisgirl profile image

      lewisgirl 5 years ago

      A great tribute by a loving son! Very nice lens, enjoyed it!

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Totally inspiring. Thank you so much for telling us this story of your dad and his heroism. Have a huge appreciation for what he and many others like him have done for our country. Well-deserved LOTD!

    • ifeelgod lm profile image

      ifeelgod lm 5 years ago


    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Returned to G+.

    • KandH profile image

      KandH 5 years ago

      Congrats! It's wonderful to discover your dad is an even bigger hero than you ever imagined he was as a kid - what a thrill for you and your family. Well done to you and of course to your dad!!

    • lclchors profile image

      lclchors 5 years ago


    • TeacherSerenia profile image

      TeacherSerenia 5 years ago

      WOW. I always thought that the character of Commander Harmon Rabb from the TV show JAG was exaggerated. He too was a naval aviator, with 2 DFC's and various other medals, and a ramp strike that he survived. But now I see that they weren't exaggerating at all!!! Your father truly was a hero.

      and Congrats on the Purple star and LOTD - very well deserved!!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      This is an awesome lens. Congratulations to your dad and congratulations on getting LotD!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      What an amazing Top Gun Story. Your dad is a hero so humbly and quietly served his country. I totally enjoyed reading this story. Thanks for sharing. Blessed ****.

    • Dressage Husband profile image

      Stephen J Parkin 5 years ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

      I do not find your lens at all surprising! The guy who taught me to sail was a British Top Gun (literally). He never told me himself, but he completed over 400 raids as the rear gunner on Lancaster bombers in World War II. He was shot down three times and was always rescued by British MTB's and also once had to crash land in the Kent countryside after losing all but one outboard engines. The victim of Me 109's lying in wait for the return to Britain.

      It was my father who finally told me he had served in Holland as a radar technician and Stepan the gunner was a long time family friend and was of course one of the most popular rear gunners out there (he always came back!) Their average life expectancy was under10 raids due to their vulnerable position at the rear of the plane. This real life hero never mentioned it either, he was just doing his duty.

      We should be truly grateful that such men exist as without them there may well have not ever been a truly free world as we know it. Congratulations on the purple star and LOTD, richly deserved.

      Once I found out I asked Stepan his secret to survival all he would say was I just shot them down first, I had to!

    • Svnserendipity LM profile image

      Svnserendipity LM 5 years ago

      Oh my god. This is probably the coolest lens I ever read!. Thank you for sharing this story, Martin!

    • weakbond profile image

      Nnadi bonaventure Chima 5 years ago from Johanesburg

      Inspiring story ,he really made his mark. congrats

    • smaraymond profile image

      smaraymond 5 years ago

      Congrats to both of you. Great story and wonderful lens.

    • poldepc lm profile image

      poldepc lm 5 years ago

      congrats on the LOTD ...great lens you wrote

    • profile image

      tudzuniverse 5 years ago

      Very nice story, loved it! What a nice job you did with the layout. Congrats on LOtD.

    • Country-Sunshine profile image

      Country Sunshine 5 years ago from Texas

      Great article about your dad & his accomplishments. Especially at such a young age. What I've found about these "greats" is how humble they really are. "Just doing my job..." Thank him for his service. **Blessed**

    • MonetteMiro profile image

      Monette 5 years ago from Dubai

      Nice story and layout

    • justramblin profile image

      justramblin 5 years ago

      Wow, what a wonderful story. You are so lucky you found this out while he's still around to answer questions and tell you more. He's a humble hero! Congrats to you both. I love the photo of his hectic day on the road in retirement!

    • Mickie Gee profile image

      Mickie Goad 5 years ago

      I was an "Air Force Brat" in my childhood. I take great pride in that fact. I enjoyed reading about your top gun Dad.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for sharing this lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel, and congrats on your LotD!

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      A great read. Congrats on your accolades to you both! *blessed.

    • profile image

      myspace9 5 years ago

      Congtrats for the Lens of the Day. Good article.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I am thrilled t return with fresh angel dust to congratulate you on LotD, excellent!

    • JBradshaw profile image

      JBradshaw 5 years ago

      Great lens. Real good layout.

    • IncomeFromHomeT profile image

      IncomeFromHomeT 5 years ago

      Top Gun indeed . . . congrats!

    • TheBLU26 profile image

      TheBLU26 5 years ago

      Awesome tribute! Enjoyed reading immensely Well deserved purple star and LOTD!

    • Ahdilarum profile image

      Ahdilarum 5 years ago

      Congrats for this lens selected as LOTD

    • QueenDRanch profile image

      Deborah Zappa 5 years ago from Mesilla Park, New Mexico

      Thank you for this lens. What a great legacy for your father and a tribute to those who served. Wonderful!

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      So very, very proud of your dad and of you and your sister for the tributes! I get pretty emotional reading things like this, and today is no exception. Blessings to your dad and a big "Thank you!" for his service. Congratulations on this inspiring Lens of the Day!

    • Faye Rutledge profile image

      Faye Rutledge 5 years ago from Concord VA

      Wow, thanks for sharing this story. Thanks so much to your Dad for his service. Congratulations on LotD!!

    • Expat Mamasita profile image

      Expat Mamasita 5 years ago from Slovakia

      Thank you for sharing your Dad's top gun story

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      What an awesome accomplishment for your dad. So glad you finally found out his history!

    • Gayle Mclaughlin profile image

      Gayle 5 years ago from McLaughlin

      What an awesome accomplishment for your dad. So glad you finally found out his history!

    • writerkath profile image

      writerkath 5 years ago

      I really love this story about your Dad, Martin! I'd love to meet him. Please thank him on John's and my behalf for his service to our country!

    • profile image

      MichaelDubrovnik 5 years ago

      Salute - to your old man.

      What an awesome story here to share, cheers.

    • profile image

      philipcott 5 years ago

      waa gun man

    • JordanWalker LM profile image

      JordanWalker LM 5 years ago

      Amazing lens! A great tribute to your pops.

    • ardidar profile image

      ardidar 5 years ago

      very good for learning........

    • irminia profile image

      irminia 5 years ago

      Great to pay a trubute to your father like this, great lens. That carrier landing sure does look tricky.

    • Ardyn25 profile image

      Ardyn25 5 years ago

      The perfect tribute to a wonderful man. Beautiful lens, and congratulations on a well deserved Lotd.

    • Hobgoblin LM profile image

      Hobgoblin LM 5 years ago

      Great lens.

    • bushaex profile image

      Stephen Bush 5 years ago from Ohio

      As a former Navy officer who left active duty about a year after your Dad, I can tell you that those were rugged times (which is another reason that he probably didn't talk about many of his experiences). SquidAngel Blessings.

    • RazzbarryBreeze profile image

      RazzbarryBreeze 5 years ago

      Congratulations on LOTD. I agree with all the posts here. A wonderful tribute to your father. Blessings to you .