The Unsinkable brian cork™

Brian Patrick Cork is living the Authentic Life

the face of my Father

October4

sometimes people listen to me (even my fourteen year old daughter Haley Anne). and, when they, that “collective they” do, sometimes they hear me talk about “remembering the face of my father”.

I do use that “device” for both my earthly and heavenly father. but, today, it’s about Dad.

I’m doing so because I’m remembering him. it’s the best way, I think, to honor someone – by recalling something they did that’s worth comment. and, in the case of the description that follows I think this comes in the form of something I believe happened, and ironically, only a few men would have witnessed, but was likely a defining moment for the man most of us can never be.

over the course of a life, and in this case, it was my young life, we pick up on things about the people around us. I was lucky, just enough perhaps, to have Dad in my life for most of twenty five years. in that sophomoric period of my existence my perspective had to be skewed by perception and lack of some information. but, my sense of circumstances leads me to an image of my Dad in a tough spot.

imagine this… or, this is what I picture the sort of man my father was…

Col. Clifford D. Cork USAF

it’s likely 1969 and Dad is serving one of his tours of duty in Viet Nam. eventually he would become one of the youngest Air Force officers of his era to command a Wing of B-52’s (Stratofortress) /1 under the vaunted Strategic Air Command (SAC), but also do it from the navigators chair. the B-52 was capable of altitudes that exceeded 35,000 feet. it’s monsoon season, so his plane has travelled across the storm-tossed sea dropping down through unimaginable weather, hitting turbulence that lifted and dropped the aircraft 3000 feet at a time, turning the crews stomaches from twisted knots to mush. Dad had to take turns puking into a bucket between his boots that are all but frozen to the deck, and fight his own mind-numbing fear to speak calm commands to his pilot through his air mask/ helmet radio. his primary objective (other than to lead under what he taught me was: “being a steely-eyed-missile-man”), was to use a set of simple tools (i.e. rulers, pencils, and maps) and his brilliant mind to form complex calculations that would guide his crew with pin-point accuracy to drop their payload on the right target – and, not innocent civilians.

B-52 Damaged During Turbulence

Dad once told me, something to the effect: “there were times when we were bouncing up and then down so hard and fast that all I could think of through the screaming groans of the tortured wings was that they would shear right off the fuselage”.

I knew my Dad, sort of. I don’t, and sincerely, believe he was a brave man. in fact, I understand there was much in life he feared (i.e. the loss of my Mom, and poverty). however, his courage is unfathomable. he put himself in that situation countless times, and did it better than most men that shared that chair with him (many of the B-52’s built saw service in excess of fifty years).

peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork

_________________

1/ Dad was one of the few SAC officers that also commanded a Missile Wing (silos). this made him unusual both in his spheres of responsibility, but his incalculatable ability to learn and lead.

by the way…

in January of 1964, a B-52D carrying two nuclear bombs suffered a structural failure in flight that caused a fire to break-out on-board. apparently over the course of emergency maneuvers the tail section sheared off. four crewmen ejected successfully before the aircraft crashed near outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. several crewmen perished. the pilot was unable to eject, and died in the aircraft. both weapons were recovered. this was one of several incidents caused by failure of the vertical stabilizer.

my Dad was part of that crew. so, there is some perspective for you, that my Dad had to carry with him going forward. and, that is another story that’s currently percolating in my head. I remember that day… I was watching television and I saw my Dad’s face appear on the screen just as my Mom took a telephone call from “the wives network”. I recall her hollow: “oooh God, …Cliff”. But, Dad came home. He always smelled good.

20 Comments to

“the face of my Father”

  1. Avatar October 4th, 2010 at 5:26 am Now Hiring traders Says:

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  3. Avatar October 5th, 2010 at 9:35 pm Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Hello. And, welcome here.

    Cork


  4. Avatar August 19th, 2011 at 6:37 pm Jerry Palmer Says:

    I was doing a little research trying to recall my squadron at Whiteman AFB. I could not recall if it was the 508th or the 509th. Col. Cork was my commander so I figured I could find out which by checking his lineage as a commander. This is when I ran across his passing. In the back of my mind, I figured he would live forever. He was always such a pillar. I just wanted to relay a couple stories of your Dad and I.
    In 1977 I was selected as a competitor in the ICBM Missile Combat Competition at Vandenburg, AFB CA. The day our team, along with Col Cork, boarded the plane at Whiteman bound for CA; your Dad sat in on a friendly poker game a couple guys and I had started as the plane was delayed on the tarmac. I was a beginner when it came to poker, but luck was on my side. Col Cork was obviously a seasoned player but just could not catch any good cards. When I drew 2 cards to an inside straight, something no good gambler would ever do, I actually hit my straight again beating Col Cork. That was the last straw and the Col quit. He took quite a ribbing. A couple days later at the competition, a few of my team mates and I were headed to the NCO club and noticed that each competing base had it’s own star hanging from the roof of the club by a single cable. The NCO Club had been reserved for the competing teams Officers and Enlisted. Always a prankster, I told the guys to wait out front as a lookout while I climbed up a drain pipe in the rear of the club and flipped all the stars upside down (all except Whiteman’s of course). This went off without a hitch until I ran back around front and there was Col Cork with my buddies looking up at the stars. Col Cork, just off the poker beating, gruffly yelled, “Palmer, come here!” “who flipped those stars”? Caught red handed, I simply said, “I did Sir.” Talk about scared, I was! After a couple minutes of sweating (I could tell he enjoyed those couple minutes); he just said, “good job”; put his arm on my shoulder and said, “let’s go have that drink.” He knew it had been just a harmless joke and had hurt nothing but the pride of the other competing teams.
    He was elated when we won the Blanchard Trophy and if you ever go the Whiteman AFB; be sure to tour Oscar 1 Launch Control Facility which is now a museum. In one of the glass cases related to the 1977 Competition is a picture of Col Cork with the Blanchard hoisted skyward just after the final score posting. Beside him in the picture is me (Jerry Palmer). I have never forgotten Col Cork. He was a great common sense commander.
    As for me, I served my 6 years in the Air Force and got out. I later missed the military and tried to get back in, but because of a draw down at the time, the Air Force was not taking any prior service personnel in Minuteman missiles. Instead I joined the Army and retired in 1998 as an E-8. It was quite a change; missiles to armor.
    I have no regrets and love the Army, but I will always have a soft spot for my first love; The United States Air Force.
    Fond memories always trump fond farewells. Goodbye Col.


  5. Avatar August 20th, 2011 at 8:03 pm Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    I can’t add anything, here, that would honor the face of my father any more than Jerry has.

    Thank you.

    Cork


  6. Avatar January 19th, 2013 at 9:15 pm The Unsinkable brian cork™ » Blog Archive » Dad’s are forever Says:

    […] violently that he couldn’t read the gauges. Pulling…for additional perspective read: the face of my father.that’s it… I’m lifting up my Dad.we must needs all be remembered.peace be to my […]


  7. Avatar December 21st, 2013 at 6:18 pm Paul Blanchard Says:

    Brian,

    Another comment of mine seems to be removed. You must be living bit of a fraud concerning your dad. Well, no problem. He didn’t like us “steely-eyed missile men” anyway.

    Paul


  8. Avatar December 23rd, 2013 at 10:51 am Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Good morning Dr. Blanchard.

    I’ve not removed any comments. I have not yet approved any of yours until I verify information that includes your identity, service record and the allegations you are hoisting about my Dad.

    NOTE: I usually don’t approve many comments because the entire process is very time-consuming. So, most simply lay dormant. Yours is an exception because you are attacking my Dad. And, most officers I grew up around, and know today, would never do that – especially in the manner you have.

    It’s a bit odd that you are taking these shots at him on a forum that is not associated with several of the blog posts I’ve written that feature Dad.

    In any event, I’m going to contact SAC and see what I can come-up with. However, I do know that Dad was promoted “above the zone” at each opportunity, his citations are numerous, and the accolades shared with me about him, his leadership, and service record shared by many men under his command have long-sustained me since we lost him.

    It does occur to me that someone may be posing as you. So, the sooner you can confirm your identity the faster we can get all this resolved. I certainly want to. I doubt Dad’s record is blemished. But, I also want all the stories. Dad was certainly human. However, the way we handle challenges in life are the best way we can be judged. And, Dad inspired all of us right up until his untimely passing.

    – Cork


  9. Avatar January 10th, 2014 at 12:29 am Paul Blanchard Says:

    Brian,

    I came across your blog accidentally – I had no idea it existed. I am not out to take shots at your Dad. His record as you have reported it is outstanding. By the way, early promotion is referred to as “below-the-zone” which I am sure is your Dad’s situation.


  10. Avatar January 10th, 2014 at 6:26 am Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Good morning Dr. Blanchard.

    The below-the-zone topic was a regular reference point in our household while I was growing-up.

    I’ve sent out letters (I can’t recall the lat time I engaged the US Mail with such focus) to several military archive organizations. Unless I’m missing something SAC, the USAF, and our military in general does not make it simple to verify information to results for things like Emergency War Order testing online.

    Look… If you have access to accurate information just send it over to me. You are associated with a university. You know how to document and validate your points.

    – Cork


  11. Avatar January 12th, 2014 at 5:37 pm Paul Blanchard Says:

    Brian,

    It seems you are trying to lecture me. I’m just trying to inform you of what may have happened at Whiteman. Do you want me to drop the subject? You have articulated his good points throughout your blog. I do not argue for a minute that they anything but accurate. Have you ever heard about the “pick up paper” episode at Whiteman? It placed combat crew officers, some on crew rest after alert duties, in a similar position of being a prisoner at Leavenworth. OffIcers and enlisted personnel below the rank of colonel were ordered to pick up paper and other trash throughout the base area. I guess they were ordered to pick the stuff up together so it looked like they were in a task which displayed “togetherness”. I think this order was illegal in the manner by which it was passed. Have you ever heard about it? Your dad was the wing commander at the time. Some formations even marched back to the wing headquarters with their now-full trash bags whistling Colonel Bogey’s march from the bridge over the river Kwai.
    Most members who picked up the trash did not see it as a great “togetherness” exercise; rather they took it as a “bite the bullet” event. They weren’t asked to participate; they were ordered. The way this situation was handled resembled a punishment detail. I would assert that you might desire to order officers to pick up trash but you do not do that to senior non-commissioned officers. Some folks failed to see the manifestation of good leadership in this event.

    In case you are thinking I had an axe to grind, you are wrong. I was commander of a wing-level “select” instructor crew at Whiteman. All my evaluations were “highly qualified”. I guess that made me a “steely-eyed missile man” as your dad termed it. Did your dad think we, as combat crew officers, should ridiculed in that way for our very serious and intense responsibilities? If so, I don’t get the joke.


  12. Avatar January 13th, 2014 at 4:05 pm Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Affirmative.

    You could have contacted me privately as opposed to lobbing this onto a public forum.

    It was the wrong thing to do.

    Meanwhile, yours is a rhetorical question. I could not possibly know the answer. And, I was unaware of the papers incident. I was sixteen years old. However, my Dad did make me and the vice wing commanders sons chip paint off of a display plane for riding motorcycles too hot near a run way. That was a fairly public event. He did that to demonstrate everyone had rules to follow. Everyone.

    I suppose you can consider yourself or your duties as “select” or “qualified”. However, you ended a twenty year Air Force career as a Major. Anyone that serves has my regards. But, Dad was a Colonel at that point of his career. You do that based on merit and the esteem of senior officers, fellow officers and the men that report to you. Yours is the first voice raised in an unseemly way to Dad.

    If you are sincere with any of this feel free to call me any time. My mobile number is, 404-451-4799. A good email address for this remains, brian@unsinkablebriancork.

    – Cork


  13. Avatar January 15th, 2014 at 2:29 pm Paul Blanchard Says:

    Brian,

    .Given the tone of your last blog, I decided to send my comments via another blog instead of an email. Regarding my
    Service career. I find your assertions somewhat naive. I never was in competition with your father. I loved every minute of my career and I made significant contributions to the defense my country. I certainly have no doubts that I took my responsibilities seriously. I had no need nor desire to use your father as a template for my life. And I reject your gratuitous comment about the nature of my service. I am highly proud of my accomplishments in the Air Force and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. I served under some wonderful leaders. Your dad, however, was not one of them. If you wish to raise his accomplishments up, that should be sufficient. Everyone in the world does not have to agree with you. Can you understand this? And, by the, did you serve?

    -Blanchard


  14. Avatar January 16th, 2014 at 7:01 am Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Good morning.

    If you really are “Paul Blanchard”, and you were an officer in the United States Air Force, I’d think you would be a bit more focused on details that might include grammar and punctuation. While I take liberties over such things on my own blog by intent, your efforts will find themselves under different scrutiny. I THINK you are currently involved with a university. And, if that’s the case I imagine leadership there, and any students under your guidance, might take exception to the pettiness you are evidencing in your most recent comments.

    I never said you were trying to compete with my dad. You likely never stood a chance in that regard. However, using his accomplishments, and certainly his efforts, may well serve as a valid template for anyone. I certainly do so in-terms of being a father in my own right, and a husband. Discipline and work ethic were also his example. Bitterness and gollum-like are the only uninspired qualities that I see in your own.

    This ends our exchange. But, I’m grateful for it. Your efforts make me appreciate my Dad, and the good men that surrounded him, so much more.

    – Cork


  15. Avatar January 16th, 2014 at 12:53 pm Paul Blanchard Says:

    I am glad to terminate this dialogue. You have failed to confirm what happened to your father during that SAC IG evaluation but some how obtained my records. Be advised I have served under many outstanding leaders but you dad was not one of them. And you, young man, manifest many of the traits that besmirch your generation. You are a source of invective and trivial points, thinking all the time how much better you are to those around you. You think just because you love your father the whole world go along with your view. That is a pretty naive view. You may ask what is my current position in life. I am currently emeritus full professor of biological and environmental sciences at my university. I have won numerous awards and accolades within and outside my field. And I have won the award for best professor as voted by the senior class. I have twice served as president of the faculty. Heck, I am happy with my life and achievements. But reflection back on your father does indeed put me in a sour mood. And having known your father, I can now say I know his son is capable of causing the same effect on me.

    -Blanchard


  16. Avatar January 17th, 2014 at 8:32 am Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    You are very bitter and vindictive for a “happy” man.

    Why do you feel the nest to brag about your career? My Dad NEVER did that. He let the record and testimony of men speak for themselves.

    You started this exchange and clearly don’t like being challenged. I’ve invited you to call me a couple of times and also validate your identity. You failed to do both. What I know of human nature, and its a fair amount, is that you had a questionable career in most views, other than your own. When people want to cast stones from the shows that usually means they are bullies, of a type.

    At this point, I just think you are a silly little man.

    You had previously stated you planned to move beyond this forum. So, feel free to do so.

    – Cork


  17. Avatar January 17th, 2014 at 11:04 am Paul Blanchard Says:

    I told you who I am and gave you my email address. Sorry that you missed the point but I was trying to establish my credentials with you. I have no need to brag. It seems like that you are still the kid who thinks he knows more than everone else. What “credentials” do you think you need from me? What “questionable career” are you talking about? Speaking of careers, what do you do for a living? What makes you an expert on “human nature”? Again I ask what is your military service, if any? It sounds like since you are a military brat, you are an expert on all things military. I don’t think you are an expert on anything. All your platitudes and talk really amount to nothing. You know what? I think you are still a kid playing in a mental sandbox. Your attempts at insult are childish. In short, you are full of baloney.


  18. Avatar January 17th, 2014 at 9:44 pm Mary Guthrie Says:

    My father served during Brian’s father’s era. I have always been incredibly proud of my father and the work he did on behalf of all of us. Children of USAF officers grew up in a fabulous world, in great part because our fathers were keeping us all safe every day while risking their lives so very often.
    A common thread I noticed among my father and his fellow officers is they would never air their grievances publicly. Never. Don’t get me wrong, my dad tells (and 30 years later continues to tell) stories about the larger-than-life personalities he served with. Never has he told a story (and he would most certainly never BLOG a story) airing a grievance.
    It is a shame Paul Blanchard did. In my opinion, his remarks here not only make him appear petty and bitter, but he also has done a disservice to the Air Force.
    Shame on you, Paul Blanchard.


  19. Avatar January 18th, 2014 at 12:37 pm Paul Blanchard Says:

    Brian,

    I accept Mary’s criticism. I have taken this matter too far and I apologize to you for my anger and bitterness. Your dad did what he thought was right in carrying out his responsibilities. He was the commander and the job is tough. Almost 40 years have elapsed since my interaction with him and I have done the un-Christian thing by letting this matter to cause me to have such a needless and wrong perspective about your father. I ask your forgiveness. You have helped me process my anger and I am grateful to you for that. Help me to put my blue suit back on. I placed this comment on your blog so it could be seen by all. I want you to understand that you are truly a great son.


  20. Avatar January 18th, 2014 at 1:51 pm Brian Patrick Cork Says:

    Copy all that.

    On my way to Starbucks today I lifted the matter up. I asked God what the point of it all was and if He would just take it into His hands.

    The words that came back to me were to the effect I was getting a chance to defend my Dad, like he often did me. That’s a rare privilege.

    So, with a bit of irony, I’ll thank you for that opportunity.

    Cork OUT.


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