Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

My History

David E. Ammerman

1964


From the very beginning, I should have understood the fate of my travels through life would have me rub elbows with some of the most magnificent people on the planet. Born at a very early age to a couple from Altoona, PA, whose father was a career Master Sergeant, I was in nine different schools all over the world for the first six grades. Fortunately, my Dad decided to retire from the Air Force so that I could complete high school at Amherst, a suburb of Buffalo, NY.

HannahandPapa1.jpg I had become a scholar/athlete in a graduating class of over 500 and had the singular honor of having my acceptance to USAFA be signed by a personal hero, Dwight David Eisenhower on a Presidential Appointment. My freshman year with the Class of '63 was basically a repeat of my High School senior year and I made the Superintendent's List with a great zeal for social/military development. My sophomore year became more than a challenge and my efforts evidently were sufficient to grant me an immediate turnback to the Class of '64. Prof. Archie Higdon and I became close “buds”. I struggled with academics but as Classmate Dula would put it, managed to graduate in the top 98% of my class.

That hand of fate is a comedian and a realist. I had a number of accomplishments at school of which I was proud, but each remains only in my mind and in the memory of a few with whom I schooled. Most of the documentation of my Academy accomplishments have disappeared from the records.

I had escorted a gentleman, Art Franzen, who had brought several nuns from Loretto Heights College to visit the Academy around the grounds during my first year and was given “unlimited dining privileges” by the Superintendent for creating good will. I did not know he was THE honcho for Seagram's until he wrote the letter to the school. He supplied many Red Tag party functions with adult libations and my classmates and I with dinner dates and dancing at Denver hot spots for quite some time. It was my first notoriety.

I ran into the Headmaster at the Rocky Mountain Rehabilitation Center on a trip to C-Springs. It led to several squadron trips, starting with Halloween, to entertain the parents of the handicapped kids while the children were treated to a Halloween party. This evolved into bringing the group to USAFA to celebrate Easter. It gained immediate popularity and the expansion of our squadron program became “Operation Easter” for the entire Wing, bussing kids from C-Springs and Denver and all in between. I was very proud of that.

The yearbook shows my picture next to Gerald Oak Alfred's write-up and vice versa. At our 40th Reunion, it must have been difficult for the Alfred kin to see my picture displayed next to the obituary and write up for Gerald. I know it was tough for me to honor my own apparent passing along with the needling I received from Squadron-mates.

In my senior year I was fortunate enough to win the Wing Open Heavyweight Boxing Championship, but a review of the historical records does not list my name. I sent an e-mail to the athletic department, but never received a response. I still have the picture of the Athletic Director presenting me with the award, so my children and grandchildren will know.

Pilot training at Moody AFB, GA was quite an experience as I found out over time that my skeletal structure had grown too fast for my organs creating pockets of acid that made me airsick consistently. My instructor, the flight surgeon and Wing Commander all gave me the chance to keep on training and go solo as I demonstrated the ability to control the aircraft in spite of my dilemma. It went away after the second month in T-38's having created enough scar tissue to mute the problem. I was proud of that.

I was assigned to SAC and B-52's. I flew Arc Light in Viet Nam. I served with some outstanding officers and airmen. Probably my greatest combat achievement was to convince Gen. Alvin C. Gillam to donate the swamp-cooled trailers to the Mayor of Agana and house the gunners with us in our air conditioned barracks. My family commitment saw my career end more quickly than I had intended and the strength and brightness in my life became my three children and subsequent grandchildren. They are my legacy and good American citizens. They are and will be my glowing contribution to society.

In reflection, I can truly say that being a cadet at USAFA was not just an education, but a life-changing experience and a tremendous honor. The years have taught me that this band of brothers is so incredibly special that my words are inadequate to describe the character, strength, bravery, and dedication of these men with whom I was privileged to serve. The only record that counts will be the one that's already on account with the Good Lord and with His blessings, I will once again be together with family and this great crew in a different venue.

2014 Comments

Sometimes I have wondered whether or not I really existed. A few years back, while attending a Reunion, I came face to face with my Polaris picture staring back at me during a Memorial Service for Gerald Oak Alfred. Yes, the yearbook reassigned my likeness, but the rumors of my demise.....

I really am a VERY lucky person, having started at USAFA with the Class of '63 before being offered an immediate "turnback" to the Class of '64. I didn't truly understand all the fortune that really gave me. With a full additional year, I acquired a ton of academic credits and it really allowed my personal perspective to grow.

Among a few personal accomplishments, I take pride in initiating "Operation Easter". It was originally an effort to assist the staff at The Rocky Mountain Rehabilitation Center and exploded with the assistance of Sgt. Coltrin into a Wing wide extravaganza bringing busloads of handicapped youth to the Academy for a day of fun with the Cadets. I found the "spirit" of the Cadet Wing incredible in their efforts to give.

It has since seemed so remarkable to me that the 19th Sq was so fortunate to have General Brett Dula to provide us with daily Stratfor info and many bits of interest and Jon Prenez, our designated "scribe", to handle all the coordinating efforts. I am truly amazed at the participation as a Squadron. This was cemented when Ron Bliss's wife called Brett with the news there wasn't much time left. Almost ALL the Squadron showed up in Houston and not a dry eye could be found while watching the amazing CD that Jim Graham had produced to chronicle our past.

Today, blessed to still be on the top-side of terra firma, I am in constant awe of the incredible contributions that the Class of '64 has made to the School, not only in financial support and constructive achievements, but in an unending dedication to promote the positive nature of the "Long Blue Line!!"
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