Updated: 13 March 2000
Posted: 7 March 2000
THE END OF AN ERA
As all goods things must come to an end, so it was to be with my Air Force Career. By 1971, things began to change. The initial group of Officers and NCOs in the SR-71 program were being sent overseas to Vietnam or other stateside units, Senior Officers were being assigned to places like the Pentagon or Command Headquarters, others were retiring and to me the old camaraderie seemed to be waning. Frankly, I was also apprehensive that my ěold WWII soldier attitudeî would get me into serious trouble. After much soul searching and discussions with my wife Dorothy, we decided that 31 October 1971 would be my last day of active duty. And so it was on the last day in October 1971 that the Officers and Airmen of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing honored me with the ěMother of all retirement partiesî at the Beale AFB Tepee on the Hill. The Master of Ceremonies, 1/Lt J. T. Twilley (now a full Colonel), presented me with a tongue in cheek ěThis is Your Lifeî complete with cartoon type caricatures and comical narrations of my escapades as a member of the 9th OMS and FMS Squadrons during the period 1965 thru 1971, The Wing Commander at the time, Colonel Hal Confer (B/Gen Ret) presented me with a model of the T-38 aircraft with the inscription showing the date he took me on a Mach 1 ride over parts of California and Nevada. There were other gifts presented to me and my wife by the Lockheed Aircraft Co. and others at the party, but probably the most touching and one I was most reluctant to accept, was the one presented by Lt/Col Smith, Commander of the 9th OMS. In his presentation speech, Lt/Col Smith stated that since I was leaving the Air Force, it was only fitting that the Fakawee Flag and the now famous Tie-Pole should accompany me in retirement in Boise, Idaho. I strongly protested that the tradition should live on and that the Flag and Tie-Pole truly belonged to the 9th OMS. The presentation even included a official Air Force Form, signed by the Commander and Wing Supply Officer transferring the Flag and Tie-Pole from the 9th OMS to CMSgt. Wm. M. Gornik. After considerable urging and sincere insistence by all my friends, reluctantly accepted these memorable gifts with the promise that I would display them in a place of honor in my home and that I would some day will them back to the Air Force. The Fakawee Flag and the Tie-Pole were in a place of honor behind the bar in my family room and the stories of the origin and history told and retold for the next 19 years.
THE GRAND FINALE
In early January 1990, Lt/Col Rod Dyckman, Commander of the 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron, phoned from Beale AFB and invited me to attend the final salute and retirement ceremony of the SR-71 Blackbird on 29 January 1990. The final fly-by was to be held at Beale AFB and included a Mach 3 flight, formal retirement of the SR-71 colors and final banquet at the Officers Club. As I prepared for the trip, I knew that this was the opportune time for me to relinquish ownership of the Fakawee Flag and Tie-Pole. And so it was that I sadly packed the prized mementos in my car and headed for Beale AFB, California. When I arrived I turned over the Fakawee flag to CMSgt Dennis C. Davis who was the most recent heir to the duties I had as a member of the 9th OMS. Sgt Davis was asked to care for the flag until such time as it was appropriate to be placed in the Beale AFB Base Museum. The Tie-Pole was then turned over to Lt/Col Dyckman, C.O. 1st SRS for safe keeping and eventual retirement to the Base Museum. As a final gesture in the preservation of this unique bit of Air Force history. I designed and purchased an engraved plaque upon which I attached the original pocket knife used in starting and continuing the tradition of the tie-cutting ceremony. The engraving reflects the authenticity of the attached knife. Sometime during the Blackbird Reunion to be held 30 May thru 2 June 1991 at the Nugget Hotel, in sparks, Nevada, I will present the plaque to an appropriate representative of the Beale AFB for delivery to the Beale Museum. That should be the final act of the 25 year active history of the Blackbird Tie-cutting Ceremony.
The Plaque was indeed passed on to the Curator of the Beale AFB Museum (a Staff Sgt whose name I do not know) during the 1991 Blackbird Reunion. From that day on, the Knife & Plaque have not been seen and apparantly was never delivered to the Museum
© Wm. M. (Bill) Gornik
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