Month: January 2017

Wheels Up

Wheels Up

The World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot went wheels up for the last time on Friday.

Logan J. Daub, known to one and all as Jack, known to anyone who paused long enough to hear him speak for 17 seconds as the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot, died in his home after a three-year battle with cancer.

It wasn’t the sort of battle Jack was used to fighting. In those, he normally flew fast and accurate and aggressive over the jungled lands below, dodging anti-aircraft fire all the way and flicked his Bic on North Vietnam. He was an unrepentant believer in the rightness of the cause, our Jack.

When he finished his tours and decided eventually to muster out of the Air Force, Jack did some private plane flying. While he won’t confirm or deny (except under the heavy, heavy, heavy influence of many, many, many, many stiff drinks [and, even then, I couldn’t be sure he wasn’t pulling my leg]), I’m pretty sure he did some work for certain three-letter orgs. The names of which would no doubt be familiar to many of you.

With friends all over the U.S., Jack found himself traveling quite a lot. Thankfully, his flying job allowed him to indulge his passion for women, talk and drinks. Not necessarily in that order.

He was a man who could sit down in any bar, any where and talk to any one and become best friends with whoever it was that was lucky enough to enter into a discussion with him. Not just bar friends, lifetime blood brothers who only ever talk that one time. No, Jack was the sort to actually keep up with all his new friends.

My parents met Jack when my dad was serving his two years during Vietnam. He was given a choice: Either serve for two years, work as an orthopedic surgeon in some stateside Army base, or serve for one year and be pretty damn sure you’re going to the ‘Nam. He chose stateside.

We lived on Fort Leavenworth, amongst the prisoners and the pilots and the plebes. It was there Jack entered our lives. Along with several other friends, they remain close with my dad still today.

I will always remember Jack because of how he treated me. He was the first adult to treat me like an adult. He would ask me a question and then sit still listening to my reply. What’s more, he’d carefully consider what I’d said before replying in turn, showing he’d actually listened to me and cared enough to really want my opinion. He never humored me and I could never thank him enough for that.

For the past three years or so, he’s been battling some Godforsaken form of cancer or another. As if there were any forms of cancer that aren’t Godforsaken horrors. And it brought him low. Lower than he’s ever been.

He made it through, though. He made it to the other side. Or so we thought. For about the last two and a half months, he’s been his old self. He drove with a friend to San Diego to see another old friend, reconnect with a few exes, see his god-daughter again and just enjoy the life.

It wasn’t his new lease on life, though. It was a rally. And, eventually, all rallies end. His ended Friday.

His sons hadn’t heard from him in a little while so they went to his house, worried the flu he’d been fighting had knocked him out. Instead, they found him on his bed, Tango Uniform for the final time.

Tango Uniform is a bit of slang he taught me a long time ago. It stands for either Toes Up or Tits Up, a description of someone passed out and no longer moving, stretched out flat on their back, TU to the ceiling.

Of all the things Jack loved (his friends, his drinks and the wide-open sky not included because nothing else came close), the thing he most loved was college football. He was the only man alive who understood and perhaps surpassed my hatred for the University of Georgia. Jack always considered himself a Yellowjacket from Georgia Institute of Technology, a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.

And now he’s gone. And the world is the poorer for no longer having his presence in it. And you are the poorer for not having met him.

Having known Jack as long as I have, I should feel lucky to have had that pleasure. And, yet, it feels as if we’d only just now started our friendship.

Jack always struck me as someone who would live forever because he was having too much fun to ever want to leave.

I suppose the lure of the unexplored and open sky was too tempting for Jack to resist this time.

I will miss you, Jack. And always wonder about the pretender now walking around thinking he’s the World’s Greatest Fighter Pilot. Will that pretender ever know just how wrong he is?