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Ten years ago today I flew a helicopter for the last time. I logged 2.8 hours (1.4 hours each as pilot and co-pilot, as was customary practice) giving me a total of 873.2 hours in just over four years as a naval aviator. It was a functional check flight (FCF), required to OK the aircraft to full-mission status after corrective or routine preventive maintenance. I guess we “upped” the bird because I distinctly remember coming in pretty hot (intentionally) for my final landing at NAS North Island and doing an aggressive sideflare over the landing pad. It was pretty sweet! Maybe even bittersweet. I knew when I showed up that day that I had decided to resign my flight status. No one else knew, including my HAC, Kyle Taylor. For the rest of the crew it was another day at the office. For me it was a little surreal. I remember being acutely aware with each action that it would be my last ever…engine start, takeoff, taxi, checklist, log entry, radio call, etc. When I walked away that day, it felt a little anticlimactic. I had a gnawing ache in my stomach knowing that the next day I would announce my plans to my fellow detachment pilots, my det officer-in-charge and later our commanding officer. I had no doubts then and I have had no doubts since that it was the right decision for me, but until it was all behind me, it was stressful. For the next year or so, I felt pretty self-conscious every time I was in uniform. When anyone in the Navy sees those gold wings, invariably their first question is “So, what do you fly?” And the answer, “Well, I used to fly…” often began a conversation I felt awkward having. But eventually, I grew used to that part of my story.

The decision to resign from flying initiated perhaps the biggest change of life direction I’ve experienced so far. That moment has been on my mind recently; partly due to the anniversary, partly my recent high school reunion, and partly I think the fact that I’m facing another change in direction in the near future. This one (from youth ministry to seminary) might not be quite as radical a change in trajectory as that one was, but momentous nonetheless. High school, college, navy assignments, MCYM…I felt restless to move on after each chapter of my adult life. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever find something I’m content doing for more than four or five years in a row. I think I hope so. But maybe God’s just given me a sojourner’s heart that will keep us on the move as longs as we’re able. We’ll see. It’s been a pretty great flight so far.

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