The colonel said U.S. Air Force Maj. Duane Dively took a big bite of out of the apple and kept on chewing because that’s the only way to eat an elephant -- take one bite at a time and keep on chewing. He described Dively as a kid from the Bronx who enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating high school. But, the young Marine wanted to fly so he took another bite of life and chewed some more. He went to night school while he was an active duty Marine until he finally earned a bachelor degree.
Dively knew it would be tough to get a slot as a Marine pilot, so he left that service branch and joined the Air Force. He continued to chew for several years until he was assigned to fly AC-130 gun ships. He was a good pilot. He had to be because a U-2 pilot has to be a good pilot in another aircraft first. After about 10 years in gun ships, Dively transitioned to the U-2 Program and flew another 10 years.
Marshall was Dively’s U-2 squadron commander and friend, but it was Marshall’s job to send Dively on a mission high above Iraq. The date was June 21, 2005.
“During that sortie, he lost his life,” Marshall said. “As squadron commander, I had to collect him and go through the process of sending him home. But in the combat theater you’ve got to keep going. The war doesn’t stop. The next day, you put somebody else in the airplane to fly a mission and when your turn comes, then you fly the mission.”
Marshall was alerted at about 3:30 in the morning the flight was overdue.
“He could have retired and he decided no, the fight is still going on, I’m going to get back out and be in the fight,” Marshall said. “On that deployment is when he lost his life. It means something because freedom is not free. The young people we have out there today, I think, are part of one of the greatest generations of Americans we’ve had.”
He acknowledged the trauma of serving in Vietnam, but most servicemen, he said, were drafted and generally served one year, sometimes more, but generally one year in the combat theater.
“We see, I think, how hard it has been for those folks over the years to deal with what they experienced and I’m very humbled by their experience,” Marshall said. “But today, we have an all-volunteer force. Many of our young folks are on their fourth, fifth and sixth deployments into combat and they keep signing up.
“I can tell you from personal experience, these are great Americans.”
A U-2 pilot places his life in the hands of today‘s volunteer military and trusts the young soldiers, sailors and airmen explicitly. Sometimes, Marshall said he hears about the younger generation and the problems they might or might not have.
“They are not perfect. They are like the rest of us. They have issues, but my hat is off to them. I am impressed with their patriotism. Young people want to be part of something important. They want to be part of something good. They are willing to put their lives on the line for you, for your freedom.”
The colonel ended by saying there are people in the world who want to take away American freedoms and change the way Americans live.
“What’s between you and them, are these young people out there now,” he said.
It is great to give them a pat on the back and thank them for their service, but, he said if you get the chance, ask them some questions.
“Ask them about their lives. Ask them about their plans,” he said. “You’ll find they are real people -- and they are pretty neat.”
Marshall received a scholarship from the Kiwanis Club while he attended Cleveland State Community College.
“I want to encourage you to continue supporting the young folks, just like you did me,” he said. “Every chance you can, try to encourage them to take a really big bite out of life and keep on chewing.”