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Story ID:491
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Location:Andrews Air Force Base Maryland USA
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By Fred Wickert

During my Air Force career I was stationed in Tokyo, Japan. While there, I acquired a wife, a dog, and a cat. The dog, a honey colored cocker spaniel, with brown freckles sprinkled on his white nose, was named Freckles. We named the cat Blondie; he was yellow and white and had no tail. Fortunately, Freckles and Blondie got along with each other very well.

Freckles and I had a relationship of deep and abiding love. When the Air Force sent my wife and me back to the United States, we were not allowed to bring animals on the plane. I had to send Freckles and Blondie on a commercial flight.

I took the two animals to the airport and put them together in the same cage. They were such good friends that I knew they’d be happier and less afraid on the flight if they had each other. People at the airport were amazed when they saw Freckles and Blondie snuggled in the cage side by side. Everybody knows that dogs and cats just don’t mix. But these two were the best of friends.

After we picked up Freckles and Blondie upon their safe arrival at the airport in California, they traveled with my wife and me in our car all over the United States. These two animals were always with us.

Halfway through my military career, I was transferred to Andrews Air Force Base, in Maryland, to become part of the security forces protecting the aircraft used by the president. Freckles and Blondie went with us to this new assignment.

After five years, I went to the war in Vietnam. This time, I had to go alone and leave Freckles and my wife behind. Blondie had passed away two years earlier. When I returned home from the Vietnam War a little over a year later, Freckles and I were overjoyed to be together again. I had been reassigned to presidential security for the remainder of my career, so we wouldn’t have to move again.

In late autumn of the following year, I got up one morning at a very early hour. Freckles woke up and joined me in the kitchen as I prepared and ate my breakfast. I petted him for a few minutes, and then he went to the coat closet inside the front door. The closet contained a folded piece of carpet on which he liked to sleep.

When I was ready to leave, I went to get my coat and hat from the closet. I reached down to pet Freckles and tell him good-bye. That is when I discovered that he had died there in the closet. I canceled my plans for the day, built him a nice casket, and gave him a decent burial.

I felt devastated by Freckles sudden death. He had been my little buddy for so many years, and we had been through much together. I was stunned and shocked by this unanticipated loss, and I grieved for him. My wife and I had no clue that Freckles time was nearing an end. He was old, but had not been ill at all. A happy dog, he had carried out his normal routine and showed no signs of discomfort.

About a year later, I was working the midnight shift in a warm hangar, guarding the president’s small airplane. There were three separate aircraft with the presidential seal on their sides parked in the same hangar. One was a Boeing 707. It was the airplane the press and public were the most familiar with and usually was referred to as Air Force One. The term Air Force One is the code word and call sign for whichever air force aircraft the president is flying on. It is only Air Force One while the president is actually aboard the airplane. The smallest one in the hangar was one that most people were unaware of, a four-engine Lockheed Jet Star. This is the plane I was guarding that night. The other two planes designated for the president were a C-118 Constellation, a four-engine propeller–driven aircraft used for smaller airports where the runway was not long enough for a jet aircraft to land. One other Boeing 707 did not have the seal permanently displayed on it and was used only as a backup. When the president went somewhere on the Boeing 707, the backup Boeing 707 was not far away. If for some reason there was a breakdown, they would quickly switch to the backup plane, so the president could stay on schedule. The White House fleet at the time numbered about forty aircraft.

When I worked the midnight shift that night, guarding the Lockheed Jet Star, I sat at a small table near the front of the plane. Everyone who came into this area had to sign in and out. At that hour, I was the only one there. Because of the quiet of the huge, nearly empty aircraft hangar and the late hour, I became drowsy and, unknowingly, fell asleep. In the military, falling asleep on guard duty is a serious offense. If you are found sleeping, you are court-martialed and severely punished. This kind of indiscretion was capable of ruining a career and a pension, no matter how long or illustrious a career you had had. Only three years remained before I would be eligible to retire and collect my pension.

Suddenly, Freckles was there on the table, licking my face. The weight of his front feet on my chest and the feel of his tongue on my face woke me up. I was pushing him away and telling him, “no, no” when I opened my eyes and he was gone. I know it wasn’t a dream, because my right cheek was wet with his saliva. I could feel him. It was real. He was there!

Just as I awoke, the Security Superintendent walked through the door on the other side of the hangar. He occasionally came in the middle of the night to check on the guards. Freckles had just saved me and my career.

Yes, Freckles had passed away more than a year before. Yet he was still with me, my loyal and faithful friend. Now I know there is life after death. And I know that Freckles is my guardian angel.

First photo is the author at his home in Maryland, with Freckles.

Second photo is of Freckles laid to rest in his casket.

Third photo is a portrait of Freckles.

Fourth photo is of Freckles companion, Blondie

Fifth photo is of the author guarding the Vice President's plane, which is similar to the President's Jet Star.