Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Don's History

don.jpg This is a testimony of my life-long faith in God, which I will relate beginning with my graduation from Odessa High School, Odessa, Texas, in 1958. I had always wanted to be an engineer, but the Recession of 1958 prevented my parents from providing me with money for college. At this point, I began praying each night for an opportunity to attend college - - any college offering a degree in electrical engineering.

By the grace of God, I was able to attend Odessa Junior College in my hometown and studied pre-engineering, knowing that I would need to transfer to a four-year college in order to finish my degree. I continued to pray for a college education. I heard about a new school, which had opened in Colorado called the Air Force Academy, and the education was free! I applied for admission in the Class of 1963, but was informed that the deadline had passed and was encouraged to re-apply the next year for admission to the class of 1964. I did so and was given an appointment by my local congressman with a congratulatory letter from then senator Lyndon Johnson of Texas.

I soon learned that I was among one hundred of my classmates who were given appointments based upon having two years of prior college. The more I learned about life at the academy, the more I felt that I was not qualified. However, this was what I had been praying for, and if God deemed me qualified, I would press on as if I knew what I was doing. I had prayed “any” engineering college, and God gave me the best. Our group was to be part of a plan to provide the Air force with young officers having advanced degrees in astronautical engineering.

My classmates and I were told that Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had introduced a bill in congress to authorize each of the service academies to award masters degrees. Preliminary arrangements had been made for this group to attend Purdue University to complete their PHD. In order for this to work, this group would have to attend classes with members of the Class of 1962, then take graduate courses during our third and fourth years at the academy.

In 1962, President Kennedy announced his bold plan to send astronauts to the moon and return safely to earth within the decade. After this announcement, our part in the whole plan became clear. However, the plan was fraught with difficulties. First, Doolies attending classes with upper classmen did not go well. Second, Senator Symington's bill failed to pass, and the group of one hundred cadets in my class were left with the prospect of completing the requirements for graduation at the end of our third class year with no plan for the remaining two years. I reminded myself that I had been praying for a college education at any engineering school.

My classmates and I then began looking forward to graduation and pilot training. Although the Air Force knew that I was partially color blind because I failed the Ishihara color plate test, regulations in 1960 provided that a candidate could take the Navy incandescent color vision test, which I passed. However, when my classmates and I took the pre-graduation pilot physical, the regulations had changed and I was deem not qualified for pilot training. This was devastating news. I decided that I would resign from the Academy and find an engineering job, since I had completed all courses for graduation. Several of my classmates in Eighteenth Squadron told me they wanted me with them in the Air Force, even though I could not be a pilot. So I graduated and pursued my secondary career field in Air Force Civil Engineering.

I still wanted to go to pilot training, and regulations allowed me to make application for pilot training every three months. I did so and became quite a pest for Air Training Command Headquarters. I applied for pilot training every three months for eight years. During my eighth year of active duty in 1972, regulations changed and I was again qualified for pilot training. At that time, was assigned to the Pentagon and I did not walk - - I ran to the pilot training office in the pentagon. They knew I was coming and had my paperwork ready except for my birth date, which is October 11, 1940. I was three months too old and there were no waivers for age.

I was disappointed but not devastated, because I really did like serving in the Air Force as an Engineering Officer. The incentive to go to pilot training had sustained me for eight years, and that incentive was gone. I talked with my Commanding Officer in the Pentagon about the loss of my incentive and asked his advice on resigning my commission. He said he understood completely and predicted lean times in all the services because of public opinion and the fact that we were losing the Vietnam War. He asked that I not resign, but agree to extend my four-year assignment in the Pentagon to five years. However, he said he would endorse my letter of resignation, but did not think it would be accepted for three reasons: One, I was an Academy Graduate; two, I was in a critical career field as an Engineering Officer; three, I owed the Air Force two years of service for my Masters Degree from Texas A&M University.

I told him about my faith in God's leadership and would submit my letter of resignation. If my letter was accepted, then I would leave active duty and find an engineering job and be happy. If my letter was rejected, then I would remain in the Air Force and be happy. I received strong affirmation from God when I was released from active duty in seventeen days.

During the many years since, I have continued to praise God for what I have been given, and have ceased to ponder what I did not have. I have realized that prayer has sustained me throughout my life. I prayed for a college education and received one of the finest educations available. I prayed for a life partner and Joy and I have been married for forty-seven years. Joy and I prayed for two children – a boy and a girl. God gave us a girl and a boy, and we now have six grandchildren. Several years ago I realized that I never prayed for pilot training, I assumed that was included. I also realized that only God could set the stage for me, as unqualified as I was, to attend the Air Force Academy. Furthermore, only God could demonstrate his power to me by causing Air Force regulations to change twice in eight years.

If I live another day tomorrow, I will be happy because I know I have lived a blessed life. If I die tomorrow, I will be happy because I know I have lived a blessed life. My continuing prayer is that all of my classmates in our class of 1964 have now or soon will have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I look forward to seeing many of the Class of 1964 at our 50th Class Reunion.

Don W. Cryer, 18th Squadron
[ Home ] [ Table Of Contents ]