Susan L. Lundstrom

LundstromWe all have the distinction of being in the last class of OCS, Class 63-D. Yet, only I have the dubious distinction of being the LAST person selected to attend OCS. As you may remember, I arrived at OCS nearly two weeks after class had started! The reason for my late attendance is that I was originally declined based upon my heart murmur. I challenged that decision, underwent extensive heart tests, re-submitted my application, and then waited, and waited and waited! Finally, after the class had already begun, I received word that my application had been re-evaluated to include the most recent heart exams, and that I had been accepted into OCS. Further, I was given only 24 hours to pack, clear out of Charleston AFB, board a plane and fly to Texas! WOW! For a little 2-striper this was magic.; With help from many kind folk at Charleston AFB, SC, I accomplished all above and arrived in Texas early the next morning to be met by OC Jones, OC Commander of the female cadets.

Within two weeks, I had to take all of the prior exams the other cadets had taken plus maintain the academic ordeal of my other classmates.  The process was gruesome and I shook in my shoes wondering if I could do it,  plus clean the toilets and rest of the bathroom, which was my constant chore throughout OCS.  I felt lower than a snake’s belly and was treated somewhat like that by my female classmates, who consistently rated me at the bottom of my class!  It took my years to forgive them for that!  Little did they know that the extra academic pressures on me negatively impacted my military training.  Anyway, I did make it and in good humor, as I sang and played my guitar to soften the mood and bring fun to our social events.  Remember the Greenback Dollar song with Mary Small Kathy and Boni?

Following graduation, I attended Transportation Officers School along with others from our class and then was assigned to Yakota AFB, Japan.  There I worked in shipping of household goods department until transferred to the motor pool!  Believe it or not, I liked it because the guys taught me how to drive all the specialty vehicles.  Anyone need a good 2½ ton driver?

I then went from Japan to Hawaii to be a protocol officer.  That was a super job!  And it was in that position that I told Senator Ford and his wife Betty that I had to decline their offer for me to come to Washington, D.C. as his administrative aide, because there was a war going on and I was needed in SEA!  Perhaps that was a stupid decision of mine but it was truly the way I saw it then.  In 1967, in a freak car accident, I severely injured my cervical spine and that incident began my journey to eventual total disability.  Following extensive surgery, I returned to Scott AFB, IL, where I held both the WAF Commander and Protocol positions.  Two years later, I was accepted into bootstrap at the Univ. of Nebraska at Omaha and finished my Bachelors Degree finally!

Then it was off to Korat AFB, Thailand in 1970 for 18 months.  While there I once again had a dubious distinction of my photo being on the front page of the Air Force Times.  Anybody from my class see it of me in my Korat party suit?  The photo was snapped because I took a GIB mission in an F-4 at Korat, flying over Laos and even parts of Vietnam on an almost 3-hour mission.  We even refueled  from a KC-135.  It was a THRILL taking off at afterburner thrust!

Following Korat, I went PCS to the Philippines for another 18 months as Chief of Protocol, 13th AF.  Of all the well-known dignitaries I met in that position, none equaled my getting to know and assist our greatest aviator, Charles Lindbergh!  I even have a fabulous photo of us together at the flight line!  He was very nice to others and to me and I will treasure his memory always.

I bounced around the AF at other assignments, until I landed at Wright -Patterson AFB, Ohio, where besides being Chief of Protocol for the 4 star Commander of AFLC, I managed to finish my Master’s Degree in Administration and Management.

I was selected as personal military aide to President Nixon and his immediate family during his inaugural in 1973.  I got the position because his usual personal aide caught pneumonia and the President wanted someone to fill in right away.  I was selected and served nearly two months.  Prez Nixon even got me my own temporary apartment in the Watergate during that time.  That experience was magnificent and I got to meet everybody who was anybody in Washington politics then–what a thrill!

Other assignments followed until my final one at Columbus AFB, MS, where I, with my newly pinned on LTC rank, served as the Deputy Base Commander.  The base CO was so ill all the time that I spent a large amount of time as the Base CO and it totally wore me out.  Mississippi was hot, hot, hot and the job extremely stressful.  Finally, in 1982,  I had had enough, and I up and retired, shocking both others and myself!

After debating just what to do with myself for a couple of years, I moved to Nevada where I took a position as a prison correctional counselor at a maximum-security prison.  I served as counselor to 40 of the most dangerous inmates in the state, including several with the death penalty.  After a year of that and various promotions, I transferred to other jobs in the prison system, until I ended up working at a medium-security prison in Carson City.  Less than one month later, I was taken hostage at knifepoint, beaten and nearly killed.  Thank the Good Lord, the inmate finally released me, but he got sentenced to life in prison for the attempted murder of me.

I then transferred to Parole and Probation and served as a pre-sentence investigator for about three years.  Finally, I once again had had enough and up and retired early, once again shocking both others and me.  Yet, while in that position, a couple of judges encouraged me to take the LASAT test for law school; because they thought I was such a good writer.  Certainly, that flattered me but I didn’t know if I could tough out law school beginning at fifty years old!  To make a long story short, I passed the LASAT and, with assistance from a Mormon judge, was accepted into the Brigham Young University School of Law in 1991.

While in law school ( I was only one of about five non-Mormons in the school), I endured my most rigorous test in life, not only because of the arduous academics but also because of major flair-ups from my spinal surgery in 1967.  While in law school (nickel knowledge–Steve Young, quarterback for the SF 49ers was my classmate), I suffered five more cervical spine and other types of surgeries.  My head and neck were placed into a metal “halo” on three occasions, six months per time!  NOT FUN!  I became somewhat of a hero to my classmates because, regardless of my infirmities, I managed to graduate with my class, serve an externship with the Supreme Court of Nevada, receive the school’s faculty and student achievement award and have one of my papers published in the Journal of Public Law!  Not too bad for then a 53-year-old student!

After graduation, I took a criminal prosecutor position with the Sioux Indian Nation in Rosebud, SD for a few years.  At first, the experience was a culture shock and the trial attorney work astonishingly heavy.  Yep, I’m proud to say I never lost a jury trial!  During that most interesting and challenging work, I took and passed the SD Bar Exam and intended to become a federal district attorney.  HOWEVER, as fate would have it, my disabilities from my numerous surgeries could not improve in that state’s harsh winter climate, and the VA encouraged me to relocate to a warmer climate–hence the reason for my present location in Amarillo, Texas!

My disabilities are unfortunately quite limiting, as I must consume large quantities of morphine to just make it through the day.  At least the VA was kind enough to provide me with an assistance dog, a beautiful Doberman named Hawk who will be with me at the reunion God willing.  Further, the VA said that I couldn’t practice law anymore.  In short, I do NOTHING, except ride my gorgeous Arabian show horse, and assist others as opportunities arise.  My life is boring to some outsiders and others are envious of my lack of responsibilities.  The VA rated me 100% disabled because of my significant mobility challenges.  All that law school training I guess was a waste, except that I am so grateful for the experience, so grateful that the VA paid the almost $65,000 for me to attend it, and graduate, and that I am so grateful for the many fine young people I got to know at the school.

So, dear classmates, here I am in Amarillo, Texas doing basically nothing!  I have three pensions coming in (soon to be four with social security) and yet I find my money barely meeting my expenses.  I’m still single (had one bad marriage that lasted only one year back in the 1970s sometime) and still anxious to be productive as a person and as a citizen.  I thank all of you for being such a grand part of my life!  God Bless each and every one of you!

I am the proud owner of a now 8-year-old red and rust Doberman Pinscher service dog!  The VA bought “Hawk” for me in 1995 and he serves as my mobility aide.  Hawk will be with me at the reunion.  Recently, because Hawk is aging, the VA purchased another Doberman for me, a black and tan one this time.  Spirit, as he is named, is currently in training as Hawk’s replacement in Iowa and he will be delivered to me probably next March.  Of importance is that Hawk is the first service dog purchased by the VA for a disabled vet who is not totally blind!  Quite an honor for me and Hawk.  Incidentally, I neglected to mention that vessels in my right eye exploded and I am now legally blind in that eye.  Ah, the trials of aging. 

If my continuing tales of disaster isn’t enough, last summer I almost died from a severe lung tumor caused by some rare parasite that thrives in Texas.  Two months in the hospital, 13 pints of blood, major lung surgery and lots of pain later, I survived.  My weight dropped to 78 pounds!  Now, one year later, I’ve finally gained a few pounds back to 103 lbs.  and still hanging in there with the old OCS spirit!!