What My Big Brother Ken Taught Me
A Personal Memorial Weekend Message from Cherilyn Eagar
Ken Bacon US Air Force, First Lieutenant
On July 23, 1957 my family received word from the U.S. Air Force that my big brother, Ken Bacon, was missing. He was a test pilot for the F-100 Super Sabre and stationed at George Air Force Base in California. Back then the pilots flew solo in threesomes. On the return flight from Big Spring, Texas, where Ken’s plane had undergone repairs, they were caught in a storm, and Ken’s plane disappeared. His last words were “I see Tucson.”
I was just six years old, but it was an event of such monumental proportions for our family that I still have vivid memories of the month-long search that followed.
I remember the intensity, the extended family and friends gathering in our home, the hushed tones and somber voices. I recall the nightly TV reports with George Putnam announcing a reward for anyone who could find Ken. My family’s unwavering faith in a good outcome translated to my child’s-eye view of this tragic event: I just knew we would find my brother somewhere in the wilderness wandering around eating berries off the bushes while looking for a gas station to fill the plane’s empty tank.
That didn’t happen. In late August the wreckage was discovered pancaked into a mountain near Ely, Nevada. The cause: oxygen failure.
The funeral procession proceeded down Franklin Avenue in Hollywood where the shop owners who had known our family for many years came out and stood in respect for the loss of this fine young man, with his unforgettable broad smile. He left behind a beautiful wife Doris Rasband (now Tino) and a six- month old daughter Debra Lynn (now Hofheins).
It seemed the sky was as blue as Southern California can produce only on a day just after rain. As we stood on the hillside at Forest Lawn Cemetary in Burbank to pay our last respects, the jets zoomed overhead in salute to Ken Bacon’s short 28 years. It was breathtaking. Even at age six, I felt great pride and gratitude to know that he served his country well and that he loved what he was doing. That’s what Ken’s death taught me.
It is the same pride I feel when the Hill Air Force Base fighter jets zoom overhead every Fourth of July Celebration at Provo during Utah’s incredible Stadium of Fire fireworks show. It’s not only breathtaking, it’s a poignant reminder of that hot August day on the cemetary hillside. It’s that same lump in my throat that I feel when I attend the Brigham Young University AFROTC ceremony where Ken Bacon is honored every year for his leadership while a student there. It’s for this cause of freedom that my brother Ken, and others like him, served their country and gave their lives.
Years later I heard my mother’s soft cries from her bedroom. I walked in and asked if she was okay. She said she was fine, “just missing my son.” To the many mothers (and fathers) who have lost their sons and daughters for this great cause and are still “just missing” them: Thank you, and may the Lord bring you peace and comfort.
It was for this same cause of freedom that 3,500 delegates assembled at the Utah State Republican nominating convention on May 8, 2010 where I was a candidate for the U.S. Senate. My brother Ken, as well as my deceased mother and father, Dorothy and Sam Bacon, would have been so proud to see the dedication and the burning desire to preserve our freedom that filled that convention hall in Salt Lake City.
My many sincere “thanks” go to every single delegate for taking the time to study all the candidates and to be there to let your voice be heard in this terrific election system Utah has – the best in the nation – called the “caucus/convention” system.
I was filled with similar gratitude for the marvelous journey of the past year in our own freedom cause: to end back room deals and to restore principled government. The many wonderful friends all across Utah that my terrific husband Randy and I have made are priceless. Additional friends from all across the nation who became involved from a distance also made a huge difference. Thank you — each and every one!
A Loss or a Win?
In that moment, when we saw the disappointing numbers on the screen telling us that we were not going to proceed to the next round of voting, I was overwhelmed with an incredible peace. Some might have called that moment a real “loss.”
However, as I walked through the convention hall, so many delegates got out of their chairs to shake my hand and share their personal thanks and encouragement to “not go away” and to “do it again!” I was not only very humbled, but I realized this moment, and what we had accomplished despite the numbers, made the journey a real “win.”
After working 18-20 hour days for nearly a year, Randy and I have absolutely no regrets. We wish to acknowledge and publicly thank our extraordinary team. The Eagar Team ran an energetic, clean, and positive campaign. I will be forever grateful to the multitude of volunteers who worked 24/7, risking their jobs and even their health (and definitely their sanity at times!) to execute the enormous tasks with passion and loyalty to this cause of preserving our children’s future of freedom. Thank you!!!
Many thanks also go to those who put their trust in me from near and far, including: my husband Randy Eagar and our adult children, my brother Carl Bacon and my sister Chyleen Bluth and extended family; my longtime friend, mentor and role model Phyllis Schlafly, President of the National Eagle Forum and “First Lady of the Conservative Movement” for her early endorsement; Gayle Ruzicka, President of the Utah Eagle Forum and all the Eagles who stand up for family values and limited government all across this nation; Roy Beck and his great team at Numbers USA for ranking me the highest of the candidates – the “real reform candidate” – on illegal immigration; and Alan Tonelson, Fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council for his research in economic/trade matters; Glenn Kimber, The Thomas Jefferson Center for Constitutional Studies; Burt Smith, The National Center for Constitutional Studies; Jane Orient and Dr. George Watson, Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, for their knowledge and insights (and for AAPS’ successful fight against Hillarycare and its continuing fight against Obamacare); and for the endorsement of the Utah Republican Assembly and the National Federation of Republican Assemblies.
I extend additional thanks and gratitude to respected Utah officials who had confidence in our campaign and message including Representative Steve Sandstrom, a founder of The Patrick Henry Caucus; Senator Chris Buttars (keep him in your prayers as he recovers from heart surgery); and, from behind the scenes, my long-time friend and mentor – three-time winner of the “Most Conservative” award for Utah leadership, Senator Margaret Dayton.
A thank you also goes to the excellent leadership of our Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen (and his amazing staff) for the countless hours of service and support of all the candidates and to the local and national media for their extensive coverage of this unusual race.
Finally, I wish to give a public “thank you” to Senator Robert Bennett for serving our nation for these three terms. Although there was disagreement on the issues, he was a gentleman and always treated me with great respect throughout the campaign, as did his son Jim Bennett and their entire campaign team.
And now, congratulations to the two “finalists” Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater who are facing off in a Primary on June 22, 2010. We will be there to unite behind and support the winner for the November election.
May you all have a happy and healthy Memorial Day Weekend with your family and friends. As we grill those hot dogs and hamburgers, make that hole-in-one and splash in the pool, let us not forget those who died to protect the freedom and the values that made this nation great, but that are now under attack. May those who gave their lives not have died in vain, and may we honor them by never shrinking from this fight!
As President Reagan once said,
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
The Eagar Team and I hope you will stay in touch as we work together to strengthen conservative principles to our government.