Friday, February 1, 2013

RIP Ed Rasimus

Our friend Troopers Gal  first gave me the news, I was on duty and could not leave more than a quick note during my break, but I wished to add more as this is the passing of a man who was truly one of a kind.

Major Ed Rasimus of the blog Thunder Tales  has departed the fix, after a valiant fight with cancer.

If you're not familiar with his award winning books, Ed was a veteran fighter pilot of the Vietnam war, flying  more than 250 combat missions in F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom II fighters during the conflict and received the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross five times, and numerous other Air Medals.

He always had a kind word and support for me in this little blog venture and I was honored to have him visit here.

 Ed's generation and later, mine, began on round gauges, and round engines. for which starting was an artistic endeavor requiring holy curse words and sometimes meditation.  We would speak as if old lovers of some of our early aircraft for which landing was not so much a meeting with the earth but a ballet of finesse, prayer, body English and nerve.  We know the smell of sweat and JP4, the campfire aroma of engine exhaust, the warning red of Skydrol and the blue of the sky over the Poles. We hear and see every little thing, from that imagined miss in an engine as we fly over the north Atlantic, to the banging, belching, manly fart of a Pratt and Whitney as we roar down the runway at full power.The young ones have no such memory, yet are busy making their own, being front row participants in technology our generations only dreamed of.

Pilots speak a language handed down from generation to generation and only slightly understood by their non flying partners. We banter about EPR and Mach and HUD and Pickle Pause and Pull. But when it's time for the mission, the cockpit quiets and the concentration is almost tactile. For though we have tasted the insulation of the sky, we know too well the adrenalin surge of danger. We respect the power of the atmosphere and we know what it means to fight for control, of the plane, of what we believe in, and that is the uncommon faith in what we can do, what we are doing.

But as calm as the enroute segment might be, we never truly relax, for just as strongly as we believe that a pilot is always a pilot, earthbound or not, we believe in  the capriciousness of the sky and know that every day brings a chance of facing something yet unseen, something not in that textbook or flight manual, that will pit out countenance against the red line of fate.

But there's the beauty- the quiet mornings as the sun peeks over the horizon on that early flight to the east coast, the beautiful surroundings of a fog draped landscape below. It's evocative and inspiring and sometimes, despite the time away from family and the dangers,  the joy of it all reaches out and grabs on to us. And despite the occasional bone weariness and the constant change of the job itself, the happiness takes hold. The happiness is like nothing else we experience, not even the wonderful sanctuary of family, and it grabs hold of us and shakes us like a playful puppy. And we can't imagine being anyplace else.

We are airmen.

We know the overwhelming beauty of a Pacific sky as the sun seeps into the deep purple horizon, and the pristine beauty of the sun's reemergence after a long Atlantic crossing.  We have seen the tiny blips of the satellites that help guide us, track across the vast gateway to heaven, we've felt the incalculable force of a thunderstorm over a fierce green jungle. We have worshiped at the alter of a sun stroked morning, prayed into the beauty of a dark velvet night, spun robes of clouds, the candlelight of dawn. We've lifted  up our cup in grace in the sanctity of the stratosphere.

We've danced along the northern lights, seen water spouts in clear air, banners of ash from an active volcano, horizontal rainstorms, microbursts of fury and St. Elmo's fire. We've seen things no one would believe, things only a pilot will experience and we're hooked on it, not for the glamor of it, and certainly not for the pay. We're hooked because there is a reasoning beyond ego and beyond anything but that we need this freedom as an essential element of our being as we wake each day

As a group we are strong, driven, defying mortality tables of other professions, yet we head to the visit with the flight surgeon with all the trepidation of the family pet headed off to the vet for the first time. We are fiercely individualist, yet bonded together, family people at home and aloft. We compete with good spirit, yet bond with courage, we celebrate our successes and mourn our fallen Gone West.

Thank you Ed, for the inspiration, the stories, the courage, and the honor of your many years of service.

Fair Skies and Tailwinds.
 - Brigid


  1. Fair Well Ed, you were part of my daily life even though we had never met. You will be sorely missed. I hope to have a cold one with you when my time comes.

    My condolences to your family.

  2. RIP Ras, fly it like you stole it!

  3. I was wondering... checking his blog every day.

    Sir, you will be missed; they just don't make many like you (and your generation) anymore.


  4. He sounds like a good soul....peace be with him.

  5. Ed was an inspiration to me every post of his to my blog was a treat. I too will miss him.

  6. Off to a better place! Condolences to the family and loved ones.

  7. Well said Brigid. You hit the nail on the head once again. Though my flying days are behind me, you brought the memories back.

  8. Anyone who has flown the Thud into combat has earned respect. Rest well Ed Rasimus. You truly have served our Nation well.

  9. Thank you for for remembering him. I was always so humbled when he commented on posts, especially my rare flying post, my little adventures so pale in comparison to what he did. It meant a lot to me.

    Many of us here enjoyed his wit, his spark, his intellect. He will be missed.

  10. That is sad news and too soon, but at least we have his books: powerfully and honestly told stories from a life worth reading about, which fortunately he wrote about.

    Dare we hope that his next of kin will find a draft of a third installment of his memoirs? His postings on rec.aviation military always made it seem as though his post-Vietnam USAF career, though perhaps lacking in the inherent drama and unity of theme of the war stories, was interesting in its own right.

  11. I'm seeing Ed and Lex having one..for strength.

  12. Now that was a fine tribute and closer to what he deserved. Thank you for that...

    And now another falls (Chris Kyle) and I am brought low, indeed. It may be that nothing but recoil therapy will help.

    Many men in TX and around the world wept this week.

  13. RIP Ed. A great tribute to a great man.
    Oh, and thanks for posting the picture of my old office, 021. She was pretty good as SLAR birds went. Spent many hours beside the best men and women pilots in the Army.

  14. Laura B - tragedies all the way around, people that just wished to serve and help others.

    Kevin - I'm glad you noticed. She was, and is, indeed cool. Thank you for your service, with some of the finest.


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