LTCOL Robby “T-Bag” Marr, USAF (Ret.) doesn’t know I’m writing this little ditty and posting it here. He’s probably flying somewhere around the world as an American Airlines pilot, and by the time I’ve posted this message it will be too late for him to squawk about it!
Robby retired from the Air Force this summer, and as the Air Force said goodbye to a man described by his peers as a “Legend,” I wanted you to say hello to one. As Robby enters the civilian world full time, he leaves behind a truly remarkable career: he’s been an instructor pilot at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas for the last 19 years. Yes, 19. And not dog years, although he’s certainly getting long in the fang. He’s been instructing most recently at Sheppard in the NATO Joint Jet Training Program. Short version of that program is that we train NATO member pilots to fly and fight in fighter jets. A very cool mission.
Robby also married up like a lot of us Neanderthal cretins. Jill is gorgeous, smart and funny, and his three daughters are beautiful like the sirens in Homer’s Odyssey. They’re also athletic, modest and accomplished. In other words, nothing at all like Robby, and everything like Jill.
So here’s how T-Bag’s retirement went down and why I’m telling you the story. He lands safely in the T-38 jet for the final time after thousands of hours of flight time in his career. Champagne shower! Hundreds and hundreds of people have turned out for his final flight and ceremony. Tons of photos and well wishes. Official retirement. Giant hanger party with hundreds more people, fighter pilots and other reprobates. Some of the latter may have been my guests, but that’s not important right now. BBQ and all the fixings’, people telling stories, tall tales and fighter pilot guys and gals flying with their hands.
Then Robby and Jill’s three girls get up to the microphone and the hanger falls quiet.
We were there to honor a legend, but what we really learned about was legacy.
One of their girls began to cry, another held the microphone crying, and the other daughter held the other two… crying. Those graceful young ladies spoke of all the years when their Daddy left home to serve his country: to fly, fight and ultimately teach generations of aviators to be the best fighter pilots in the world. They spoke of how much they knew he sacrificed for them, working exhausting hours as both a civilian and as a military pilot in dangerous environments in difficult deployments. They spoke of love and joy and pride in their Father and how much he inspired them. I’m bawling. Hundreds of other people in that hanger were just bawling too. All of us instinctively also recognizing the years that Jill was raising three girls with two hands and a deployed or traveling husband. Robby and Jill walked up to the girls, and they had a giant Marr family hug and cry to the raucous cheers of the crowd. That’s legend and legacy. I hope my children think of me and speak of me, as Robby’s daughters did of him. I bet we all have that wish.
First Officer Robby Marr may be flying you to your next destination on American Airlines. If so, you’ll be glad to know that a good husband, good father, and a hell of a fighter pilot is on the flight deck. Say hello to a legend if you see him — he’s 6’6” and you can’t miss him….