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Lessons from Dad

Christine Palmer

After ten years with the American Red Cross, Christine joined Team Rubicon as the special projects coordinator. A Navy brat from Texas, she still roots for the Dallas Cowboys due to nostalgia and misguided loyalty.

I began volunteering for Team Rubicon after a Google search for international jobs. I filled out the application, spoke to a leader in Region 3, and a week later, I was hooked.

I didn’t know the first thing about veterans of this generation, but my father, uncle, and great uncle served in the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Army, respectively.

I was born with a love of America and an amount of patriotism somewhat beyond my years. I recall one night living in San Diego when I about 7 years old, and I was just lying in bed singing the national anthem as loudly as I could. What’s more, my 6-year-old sister Lundy impatiently stomped down the hall not to ask why I was so weird or why I was singing when people were trying to sleep but actually saying, “Uh, Chrissy, we all know you love this country, but I’m tired so SHUT UP!”

I have no idea how I even knew the words to the Star-Spangled Banner, but even at that age, I knew how lucky I was. I knew this country in the last half of the 20th century ­­­was the best place to be in the world, and my only explanation for this appreciation was through some sort of osmosis via my father, David Palmer.

Christine (center) alongside her father, David.
Two of four Palmer daughters – Lundy (left) and Christine (center) alongside their father, David, at the Paris Air Show in the early nineties.

My father remains the biggest influence in my life. Everything good in his lifetime was earned as a result of his military service. He is the person I most admire.

He began dating my mother when they were in eighth grade. They had four children and remained married until she died of cancer more than 20 years ago. Toward the end of her life, he took nearly a year off work to personally care for her in our home.

Professionally, he knew he wanted to be an aviator as a child; he worked tirelessly as an athlete and student to gain entry into the U.S. Naval Academy. He excelled, served two tours in Vietnam as a carrier-based fighter pilot taking on additional duties as an LSO (Landing Signal Officer), for which I called him a kiss-ass and he just laughed. But the truth is, he wanted to learn everything he could and help in any way possible.

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In 1977, he left active duty after 14 years and continued his Navy career with a reserve commission for another 15. Near the end of his reserve career, he was sent to Desert Storm for its duration. That same year, he started his civilian career as an experimental test pilot for the General Dynamics Corp developing the F-16 fighter. After countless medals and honors, including Test Pilot of the Year in 1974, he retired from the Navy as a Captain.

He’s told me remarkable stories – his first MiG engagement near the DMZ, how he dealt with SERE training, and how as a plebe he cleverly avoided the firsties at the Academy. He spoke of his second cruise, where a third of his air wing was lost due to due to chronic-malfunctioning deception repeaters on all of the Wing’s aircraft. He shared what makes someone a worthy squadron mate, how many cuts you have to make just to be there, and where your moral compass must be at all times. He taught me about the importance of honor, duty, and loyalty; told me to never compromise yourself, be responsible for your mistakes, be patient when you shouldn’t have to be, and be willing to die for your country.

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I describe him in such detail to say this: the more I got involved with Team Rubicon, the more I realized what an incredible idea it is, this “idea of America,” and how lucky I was to stumble upon it.

You can measure a nation in many ways, but I believe how a country treats their veterans is a telling. When my friend, USAF Capt. Neil Landsberg took his life last May, I was beyond shocked. To me, he was a younger version of my father in every way. His death remains surreal to me. At the time, I felt that if someone like Neil, or any veteran, can commit suicide, it’s a national problem and there’s an embarrassing lack of knowledge combined with timely action. Something is not being properly addressed.

None of this is news to any of us, but at the time, it hit me like a thunderbolt. So, I decided I’d do everything in my power to work at TR HQ. To say I have learned a lot a gross understatement. I learn something new every hour. I gain a new perspective daily. I pray I help someone, anyone, every day, in any way possible. I work for an organization that is utterly selfless and with some of the greatest people and minds on the planet.

I will forever be grateful for being offered this privilege, and hope I always live up to the standards I witness daily.