My good friend Glen Morangie* and I had a long chat last night about a mutual friend, Jim Roper ’68. Jim is the class agent for the class of 1968 and one of those guys responsible for the tremendous turnout of members of the Class of 1968 at this year’s Big Bash.
Jim is, first and foremost, a fighter pilot. He became an instant †hit when I worked at the Air Force’s fighter pilot assignments section. Jim’s dream job, he told us, was to fly A-10s at the FEBA (forward edge of the battle area) where he could smell the cordite (gun power in the A-10′s gun). Guys who didn’t know Jim instantly considered him a great guy…
I first met Jim in Clovis, New Mexico on a late Friday night/early Saturday morning – the exact timing will forever be unknown – to Jim and to me. We followed him home after a “tactics seminar” – he supplied us with some TWR and we listened in amazement as he played the piano. Man, can that guy play. I was amazed…I didn’t think there was a fighter pilot alive that would volunteer that he played the piano, let alone play the way he could play. We sang some fighter pilot songs (all classified) and somehow made it back to the base later that morning. I didn’t know Jim was a Wabash grad and I don’t think he knew I was either.
Jim and I would later command F-111F Fighter Squadron’s together at Royal Air Force Lakenheath. We competed like crazy. I was proud of him, he had the second best squadron on the base – he will, undoubtedly, say the same thing about me. He was 493TFS/CC and I was 492 TFS/CC – it was great! The best job I have ever had – by a margin longer than the Wall of China.
Jim Roper – fighter pilot and accomplished musician, went on to become an accomplished author and the father of twins at the age of….ready for this…61. As for me…I love taking pictures and a couple even turn out OK. That should count a little…
Jim is also the guy who, in every communication with me after my prostate cancer diagnosis, mentioned I was in his prayers and he hoped I was getting along, healing, and cancer free.
If you take a step back and think about it. Jim Roper – patriot, musician, author…a liberal arts guy, right? Jim Roper…Some Little Giant!
* Glen, who isn’t a Wabash grad, is really a big help this time of year.