David Shipko is a Los Angeles based scholar and writer.


When my grandfather went to join the Army Air Force to fly against the Nazis, they told him that, on account of the polio he had survived as a child, he was unfit for service and could not fly, even though he was already a skilled pilot. When my mother went to join the Coast Guard to fly to safeguard shores and find ships lost at sea, they told her that, on account of her being a woman, she was unfit for service and could not fly, even though she had already proven herself with years of carrying cargo and passengers and hurricane aid throughout Caribbean skies. Her brother never had the chance to be rejected, for his plane disappeared near Havana during a storm, his body never found. Thus it fell to me to become the family’s first military pilot. The calling arose early, and I answered. I joined, or rather my mother consigned me to, the Boy Scouts and the Sea Cadets, where I learned discipline, leadership, and the wearing of uniforms. I spent weekends with Navy reservists and summers at camps and on military installations, training and becoming thoroughly indoctrinated, to the point that uniforms were my favorite clothing and civilians were insufferable layabouts. I took flying lessons and learned I had something of a natural feel for the machine and the sky. When my final year of high school came, I submitted myself to the application process for entry into the Naval and Air Force academies, which is when they told me, during the course of my medical exams, that I was, on account of a slight and previously undetected colorblindness, unfit for service and could not fly. This was many years ago. I do not have children. I do not plan to have children. But if I ever do have children, there will be no uniforms.