We as a nation mourn the loss of Neil Armstrong, first man to set foot on the moon.
Neil was also a Naval Aviator, and achieved his Wings of Gold through a little known program, the same program that my father used to earn his, and lead to a very satisfying 32-1/2 year career in the Navy, one that led me to live a life of comfort and satisfaction.
Under a fairly radical plan in the post WWII environment, ADM James L. Holloway offered a path for prospective naval officers to attend college for two years on the Navy’s dime, attend flight school, earn their wings, and eventually their commissions. The key part was, they gained a regular commission, rather than a reserve commission. The two most famous NavAir grads of the Flying Midshipmen were Neil Armstrong, and ADM Gus Kinnear.
But my dad, coming from literally a one-mule, red dirt farm in Georgia, was also a product of the Holloway plan.
As the first wave of Flying Midshipmen earned their wings, the massive drawdown of the late 1940s struck, and many were urged to resign their commissions and seek their fortunes in the civilian world. Ironically, just after this purge, the Korean War broke out, and the Navy found itself critically short of qualified aviators.
My Dad did in fact resign his regular commission, and complete his undergrad work as a reservist. But in the late 1950s, he was urged to return to active duty, and in 1960, was augmented again as a regular officer. An unusual career path, to be sure.
Neil Armstrong was a terribly private person, but he did on several occasions make note of his unusual path to the Wings of Gold, a path that set him on his way to the heavens.