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Adversity is a Horrible Thing to Waste
(formerly titled "Dates That Matter")

This article was originally published in August of 2015 under the title of "Dates That Matter..." in anticipation of the Old Guys & Their Airplanes Veterans Day next release episode "There. And Back. - The Charlie Plumb Story". 
Dates still matter, but a phrase that ex-P.O.W. Charlie Plumb kept saying, "Adversity is a horrible thing to waste" has taken on a more profound and personal meaning in light of recent world events concerning the coronavirus. Here's what I heard him say.


Do you remember dates? I seem to recall the important ones-birthdays, anniversaries, or major historical events most dates just pass me by and I fail to see any course that they may plot or the meanings they reveal.

I don't think Friday, May 19, 1967, meant much to me - I was an eighth-grader at Beresford Junior High School but the day would end up meaning quite a bit to naval pilot, Lieutenant Charlie Plumb, who was flying an F-4 Phantom jet fighter on a combat mission over Hanoi, North Vietnam. While I was safely in my classroom that day dreaming about my upcoming weekend, Charlie Plumb was shot down by a surface-to-air missile just south of Hanoi. He was then captured, tortured, and placed in an eight-by-eight-foot prison cell. He would spend the next 2,103 days in captivity in communist prison camps. I went to high school.
DatesMatter 600Fast forward to July 12, 2015: I'm in Vietnam in Charlie's former prison cell at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" (now a museum). In the same cell is Charlie Plumb; he has returned to Vietnam to visit the former sites of his captivity. His first visit since his release in 1973. We're standing in what was his cell. He's tapping on the wall to demonstrate how he and his fellow P.O.W.s communicated with one another.
For most of us, Charlie's experience on May 19, 1967, would have been a very bad day. On the contrary, Charlie told us that day may have proved to be one of the best days of his life. He shared that the adversity he experienced in captivity formed him in a way that he couldn't have imagined had that missile not exploded just inches from his plane. In Charlie's words, "Adversity is a horrible thing to waste," and he didn't.
Nor should we.