Adventure Inspirational American

May 16, 1986 is a moment in time not to be forgotten in the film world. TOP GUN was released and received mixed reviews from the film critics. However, in just a brief time, the theaters increased its viewing, and it became a huge hit. The ripping jet engine sounds, action from the get-go, with a little added bit of dramatic flair to keep it real, and this became a must-see movie.  

Fast forward to May 27, 2022 and the newly released sequel TOP GUN : MAVERICK, which is sure to be a well sought-after movie given that the actor in the role of Maverick is Tom Cruise. It could not get any better! 

May 29, 1986 brings another highlight to the month of May. Leah Curtin came into this world with a wide-eyed plan that would unfold as the years went by. This young lady was destined to find her way into the sky. She was the little baby jet who was flown around the room by her dad absolutely loving the moments in the air. Her nickname soon became ‘jet’ better known as, Leah Jet. This was a takeoff of the Learjet, the Canadian-owned aerospace manufacturer of business jets for civilian and military use.  

Moments would appear when this little girl would be overwhelmed with shear happiness in seeing an airplane. Her first flight was as a baby. Did she have a sense of something even then of what was to be her calling? That moment led to a more memorable trip several more years later. Planning for this special trip to visit her Nana in Florida became a day-to-day preparation for this opportunity. Every day she was on the count down until the time was here. That meant Leah felt she needed to pack her suitcase and repack her suitcase. It was a thing to take the worry out of maybe forgetting her sandals or a hairbrush. We knew this was her way to bring the calm out of the storm for her. Her cousin was going with her and for that we were thankful. They would have fun down there. The day was here and the excitement of travelling aboard this bigger than life mode of transportation caused her to panic upon arriving at the airport. The anticipation and the thrill of this adventure was brought to a wind down moment when the captain appeared and kindly said some words to help the situation. This finally made Leah relax and she and her cousin Becca, made it to their seats in time and waited for take-off.  

When we picked her up a week later, she was so excited to show us the wings pin given to her by the flight crew. A moment never to be forgotten.  

And it was as if a new chapter was being added to the family diary. Here we were, living in a town where there was a small airport. Now and then we would venture around the landing strips where there was an area near the runway you could park and watch the jets come and go. This would always bring a flashback to the same place where we would go to as kids. My Dad joined the Army Air Corps during World War11 before it became the US Air Force. He always loved airplanes whether being in, on or around them. He shared photos of places where he was stationed which showed the main reason, he so loved all aircraft. How ironic that he would take us kids to watch the planes take off and land at a nearby airport where we lived. It was his thing and what he loved, and we always jumped at the chance to go with him wherever he took us and of course, ice cream at Glennies was always in the cards afterwards. What kid would say no? 

Another flash back is where there is still a saved picture in a folder that Leah drew at around age 8, showing herself with a huge smile in the pilot’s seat of a jet liner and her two sisters as passengers looking out of the windows. This was a sure sign of more things to come. 

Leah’s interest was soon becoming a real conversation for us to comprehend as a possible future in aviation. An opportunity presented itself at the small airport near us. It was before 9/11 and a chance moment that would never happen again. We parked near the air traffic control tower where they monitor the location of aircraft in their assigned airspace by radar and communicate with the pilots by radio. Entering the building we waited until someone greeted us. The chance to be in the tower was here. We followed the staff member and were brought directly up to the top where the view was open all around. Chatter was heard as music played in the background. Watching the air traffic control staff operate the live views was over the top. Leah was absorbing the entire scene which would become a onetime moment. We were led to the dark room where the staff focused on the radar images of the same approaching aircraft. In a moment we were quietly escorted out due to the sudden increase in air traffic. It was a popular summer weekend and everyone and their brother were flying in with their Cessna’s or other light aircraft. 

The guidance department in High School arranged for her to take the ASVAB, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. This was an opportunity to prepare for a possible career down the road in the military. She went through the process, scored high, and before we knew it, every military branch began to reach out to her. This was good to have in her back pocket for now. More was ahead. 

Into the air is where she wanted to be. This was a huge request, but we came to an agreement. The decision was made to allow the time and money spent for a promising future gain towards a career in aviation. Sports, high school studies, ground school to learn about flying as well as airtime took Leah from age fifteen into graduation. The college years flew by and joining the military was still on the back burner. But now it was the front burner that was hot. The Air Force was her number one calling and with determination she took the oath of enlistment and agreed to the Air Force commitment values: Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do. 

Leah’s determination with time spent book learning and being in the seat of an airplane at a youthful age was the beginning of the learning process to keep moving forward. It was a message ingrained in her from the start. As the bus left with Leah Jet on the way to basic training at Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland, Texas, we knew every day would bring us a proud moment never to take our military daughter’s determination for love of country for granted. 

Twelve years strong our Master Sgt is a highly trained F-35 Jet engine mechanic plus more, while also promoting the valuable Nose to Tail program initiating new trainees into the Air Force protocol. 

TOP GUN was a well done, highly engaging, brilliant show of air power in 1986. Tom Cruise might fly the high winds, but it takes someone like Leah Jet to work her magic wand to keep these birds flying high in the sky. 

Fly - Fight - Win  

May 27, 2022 23:35

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Lien Ruysschaert
08:15 Jun 02, 2022

Hi, I have to admit I don't have a lot of experience with planes or America (I did watch Top Gun 😉) but I really liked your story. I could feel the pride you have for those who serve your country and it made me respect the character you presented. I liked the Top.Gun references at the beginning and end. I would have loved to see some extra in the middle to tie Leah's life even more to the movie. And I have to say nice job explaining the technical terms in a short, need to know way.


Debbie Curtin
21:55 Jul 23, 2022

Lien you are very welcome. Thank you for your input.


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