I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag…

Today is Flag Day, when we celebrate and honor the United States of America.

Nearly 40 years ago, I stood in front of the Stars and Stripes with my right hand raised, repeating the oath of induction into the United States Air Force. I wanted to travel, to see the world, and to get away from the cold winter of Detroit.

I had no idea pledging such allegiance to our Flag would lead me to northern Thailand, to Udorn Air Force Base, to an Officer’s Club that the fighter pilots came to call Angel’s Truck Stop, because I ran that club with every ounce of skill, grit, humor, and gin I had.

I had no idea that under the name of that Flag so many young fighter pilots would take to the sky against an enemy, or that so many would die.

I had no idea that Angel’s Truck Stop would become their solace, where they ate, drank, laughed, cried, slept and even fought. I had no idea I would be touched by the insanity of combat, the thrill of flying, the upside-down rules of love and life in wartime.

I was 25 years old when I promised to serve the Flag and all it stood for. I was 29 when I left the Air Force, forever changed.

That’s why I wrote my book, “Angel’s Truck Stop: A Woman's Love, Laughter and Loss during the Vietnam War.” Because the Flag is in my heart now, braver and sadder, more complicated than you can imagine, and it will never leave.