Everything in perspective
While we were living the good life in Thailand, the Army and Marines
were pounding the jungle every day in Vietnam. Some of them saw death up
close. Some 58,000 didn’t come back – their average age was 22.
During the Vietnam War about 9,000 aircraft and helicopters were destroyed. Thousands of pilots were killed.
still remember that exact moment - standing in the bright sun where a
plane should be, the smell of jet fuel everywhere, the distant rumble of
full afterburners - when all the noise and smells seemed to stop, like
someone had turned off a switch. It was there and then that I had a
flash of realization and woke up to where I was. I clearly understood
this wasn’t a game. We were engaged in killing other people and they
were equally intent on killing us. I turned and looked at the pilots
with a growing sense of awe and fear and realized what their job – and
ours - was.
That day I began to think about the nature of war, the doctrine of just war, risk, and the value of national service.
Capt. Jeremiah Costello
and his A-7D were the last attack aircraft shot down in the Vietnam
War. Less than 90 days later the air war over Southeast Asia ended.
the rest of my career, when things got tough (being yelled at, working
until I dropped, running out of money, being on both ends of stupid
decisions, pushing people to their limits), I vividly recall seeing that
empty spot on the flight line. It puts everything in perspective.
--Steve Blank is an electronics entrepreneur and lean startup advocate based in Menlo Park, Calif.
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