You've heard of the concept, but may not have known what a tontine is. Look it up and you'll find it described as an "investment scheme" but really it is something quite different. It is the ultimate game of "Survivor."
The classic tontine had the members of a military unit buy a bottle of fine Cognac and mount it in a display case. Each year the group would gather to salute their fallen comrades until finally the last man alive would drink the brandy.
The Doolittle Raiders have a board with a cup for each member and over time the cups are inverted until one survivor will use his last standing cup.
The River Rats have fought hard not to be a tontine. There have been battles over the changes to membership criteria but wise leadership knew that we must adapt or the legacy will be lost and the good work of supporting scholarships for children of POWs and MIAs will be undone. We've added current tactical aircrew members and supporters of the organization to the roles and in the process created a mix of folks who can tell the stories to the next generation and maybe even overcome the tendency of revisionist historians to demean what was done by some very brave men.
ThunderTales has been a bit slow the last couple of days as I've been on the road to Orlando and four days with the kind of friends you can only gain through one process--sharing of intense experiences. It is always much more my great good fortune to be able to be with them than their's to be saddled with my presence. I am honored to be among true heroes and great warriors.
There is also the chance to stand slack-jawed looking at the youth entering the profession. This time it was a chance to lean on the bar with a proud father and his son.
The son was tall, clean-cut, athletic and looked just a bit too young to buy a drink in a legal bar. I estimated him at 18-19 years old. His dad introduced him to me as a Raptor pilot. Yep! A real, living, breathing god of tactical aviation flying the F-22 for a living!
He wasn't quite as green as I was when I went right out of pilot training to the F-105. He already had more than two years flying the F-15C including some time in the Sandbox. But, damn, he looked young.
I can't tell you how much I envy him.