Lawn chair Larry

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- With the Fourth of July upon us, convention would have me write about America, independence and freedom. This article will not follow convention. Rather, I'd like to tell you why I have come to approach each weekend and holiday with a degree of trepidation.

What a difference a year makes. Last year I looked forward to weekends and holidays and yet this year I see them as merely opportunities to watch the Incirlik version of David Letterman's "Stupid Human Tricks" or an episode of "Cops."

Have you ever heard the story about Lawn chair Larry? It's a true story and chronicled by the Darwin Awards. Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. He joined the Air Force but his poor eyesight disqualified him from becoming a pilot. After he got out of the Air Force he would sit in his backyard watching jets fly overhead.

He then came up with the brilliant idea of tying 45 weather balloons, filled with helium, to a tethered lawn chair. His plan was to lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his backyard, drink a couple of brews, then pop a few of the balloons and float back down. Things didn't quite work out as planned.

When his friends cut the cord anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep he streaked into the Los Angeles sky like a shot from a cannon.

He leveled off at 16,000 feet. So there he was drifting along with his beer and sandwiches across the approach corridor of LAX for several hours with planes calling in the unusual sight to the tower.

He eventually gathered up the nerve to shoot a few balloons and descended into a power line blacking out a Long Beach neighborhood for 20 minutes. Larry was promptly arrested by the LA police and the Federal
Aviation Administration spokesperson said, "We know he broke some part of the Federal Aviation Act, and as soon as we decide which part it is, a charge will be filed."

Now, I have yet to see anything as extremely three dimensional (dumb, different, dangerous) as Lawn chair Larry here at the 'Lik,' but we have contributed our share of stupid human tricks. From climbing down water drain-pipes in the dorms, to picking fights with our Security Forces, to drunken ninjas running around the base and the list goes on ... I have it on good authority that we can be equally stupid off base.

So let's see if we can connect the dots between Lawn chair Larry and us ... alcohol. That was pretty fast. Over the last three weeks, USAFE has experienced a rash of off-duty mishaps ... seven to be specific. Some of these incidents have irrevocably changed the lives of those involved ... one was an Airman up at Aviano Air Base, Italy, who recently PCSed from Incirlik. Four of the incidents involved motor vehicles.

Man, oh man, I pray every day that we are spared the tragedy of such a loss.

So, I don't look forward to weekends and holidays but I know you do. My wish for this four-day holiday: that you all be safe out there, that you be particularly careful and wise when using things with wheels, that you not concoct any ideas like Lawn chair Larry, and that you all return to work in the same or better shape following the holiday so that we can ensure freedom's future together!