Saturday, December 17, 2011


By Julie Rahm

I am married to a former Marine fighter pilot. I say former because John has been retired for three years. In his retirement, John has calmed himself and worked hard to fit into Pamlico County society. He is far less competitive than when he was flying jets for the Marine Corps.

The inherent competitive nature of Marine fighter pilots cannot be overstated. At every opportunity, they are trained to win. As the famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”. Marine pilots think like Coach Lombardi. As you can imagine, flying jets from ships in the middle of the ocean during dark and stormy nights is not for the meek. The alternative to success during these events can be catastrophic. However, the drive to compete and win can have unintended consequences.

We were living on base at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. It was Christmas. Lights were hung on most of the houses. Across from us lived the Smith family. They had a particularity beautiful display of lights in their front yard. John and Major Smith were friends since the beginning of time. The two men deployed together on numerous occasions and knew more about one another than men should. However, this season, John grew weary of the Smith Christmas light accolades. Competition reared its ugly head. One expensive trip to WalMart and now, we had the best Christmas lights on the street! Not to be outdone, Major Smith retaliated by adding even more lights. The back and forth competition continued for over a week. It reminded me of the nuclear arms race in miniature. Each fighter pilot was determined to best the other. Eventually, the military police had to direct traffic because everyone was driving into the cul-de-sac to see the two light displays. There were thousands of lights on the two houses. There was some legitimate concern the blazing lights could blind the other pilots attempting to land at night. I am not exaggerating. The end of the escalation was not in sight. Both men were buying all the outdoor lighting for sale in Craven County. And, with John, nothing is over until he says it’s over. But, this aerial combat of Christmas lights was ended suddenly.

John and Major Smith were simultaneously summoned to the Commanding General’s office. The General had a sense of humor failure over the Christmas light competition. After spending what seemed liked hours hearing the General’s perspective on the light competition, both men emerged from the General’s office with new understanding. John described it as “getting my face sanded with eighty grit sandpaper”. Major Smith said his face got burned from the heat coming off the General.

I’m sure the General’s scolding was unpleasant. I was secretly thankful. Christmas is not about the glow of house lights. The spirit of Christmas comes from within and reminds us that love and light reside in all of us. Merry Christmas from your Mindset Mechanic! Visit my websites at and!

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