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Dear Editor
One day before Veterans Day my thoughts flow back to my time on Active Air Force Service. I served in Strategic Air Command as a Squadron CoPilot on KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft built for the U. S. Government by Boeing. God bless the aerospace engineers who designed and God Bless those that bucked the rivets that put the many pieces of aluminum together. This aerospace vehicle flew as advertised and always brought me home. As you may surmise the 135 holds a special place in my aviation history.But, there is another on my mind. The ones I knew who did not come home upright. A pilot training classmate, Capt. George Mims a Clemson U. grad. on his second or first mission [we are not sure] over the North (Vietnam) was hit by a SAM missile. When the traveling "Wall" came to Vinton I was able to read the after action report of that "shoot down". It appears one of the pilots was able to eject - but it was not George. Another was Capt. George Peterson, one year senior to me in AFROTC at Iowa State University. His C-130 aircraft was disabled by enemy ground fire. He was last seen escaping into the jungle with his M-16 rifle - never to be heard from again. There was the time TDY on Operation Young Tiger at U-Tapao Thailand where a KC-135 crew died in our place. Fate is the hunter. Their aircraft was not maintenance ready so they took ours in its place. Unfortunately one of the Pratt and Whitney J-57 engines exploded causing enough loss of thrust that they were unable to maintain controlled flight - they crashed and exploded at the end of the runway. No one survived. The runway was swept for foreign objects returning aircraft were recovered and the next mission aircraft were launched. The War went on. We flew through the smoke of the fire and could feel the thermal raise our aircraft slightly. A sobering moment to be sure. We completed our refueling mission and recovered safely. That evening with a glass of the best whiskey available I raised a toast in their memory.Now entering my 80th winter I still hold these warriors in my memory. I came back whole and hope that in their memory I have had a good life. Oh God shine perpetual light upon them and give them peace. AmenRemember also those left at home they as my Sharon did not wear the uniform, but they served as well.Regards,John Stiegelmeyer former Captain USAF


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Betty Thorsvig November 11, 2021, 1:27 pm Dear Captain, thank you for your service. And thank you for this sobering reality story. May God richly bless all that have served.
Teddi Newton November 11, 2021, 5:48 pm Thank you, John, for serving in the worst of times! Thankfully, you were able to return home. May God be with the families of those that weren’t fortunate enough to return home.
Gerald Bates November 16, 2021, 11:10 pm Thank you John.
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