By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
As we were staring down the deadline for this edition of Athens Now, I was in a quandary about what to do for Publisher’s Point. The news crawlers were running non-stop with regard to the Las Vegas massacre, as well they should. The expected gun-control arguments were being trotted out once again by those who appeared to have never handled a weapon, the President and the First Lady had just landed in Las Vegas, and while I had much to say about all of it, none of it worked. Then I found the following story, and I knew that in this time of appropriate national mourning and hopefully, repentance, we needed a tale of pure and powerful David-and-Jonathan type love, and here it is.
The United States Air Force became its own separate branch of service in 1947, and in 1948 President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which was the official death knell of racial discrimination in the armed services. Just nine years later, two poor kids, one white and one black, became Airmen as well as best friends. They met at Tachikawa Airfield in Tokyo. They and their families did everything together, including going to the movies, and they didn’t care whether anyone approved. Many didn’t, and were peevish in their prejudice. Ray and Roy didn’t care because they were best buds.
Then, through a fluke, the two whose full names are Ray Cahoon and Roy Salmon, lost track of each other; Cahoon being transferred out while Salmon was in the States at a USAF track meet. They didn’t speak for decades, but they carried each other in their hearts. Salmon had tried to find Cahoon through the Air Force, and finally succeeded in tracking him down through the help of the editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Salmon had been diagnosed with cancer, knew he was running out of time, and wanted to be re-united with his friend before he passed.
Last week the reunion finally happened, and I have no more need to say a word, due to the power of the picture. Ray and Roy are honored warriors-of-the-sky in failing bodies, with tears of joy and the hugs that come from what we have come to call the band of brothers, an inexplicable bond of which I have had the deepest honor to taste; all of it was a feast for the onlookers. To be accurate, they had already exchanged letters and phone calls, but it was the face-to-face that said it all.
They were not only service members who deserved honor from all of us, they were pioneers. They proved that in all ways that are holy as well as whole, “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. It is the flashing fire of Yah…” Rotherham translation
When Ray Cahoon finally saw his friend Roy Salmon, he laughed and said, “But Roy, you never told me you were black!” Through tears, Roy managed to choke out his appreciation for his friend and his friend’s family:
“These folks, I was a human being, and they treated me like I was…”
“Family,” said Roy. And this, dear readers is the true tale of Ray and Roy’s Excellent Adventure. Let’s write our own.