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How this Remarkable Man Influenced my Life

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Image of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.

I first met Captain Eddie Rickenbacker when I was ten years old. I did not know at the time what a remarkable man he was. The high esteem in which my father held him caused me to pay special attention to everything he said and did. He was an honored guest in our home and each of his visits always brought laughter to my family.

On one of his trips to our home, I had the opportunity as always to accompany my father to go to the airport to pick him up. On this occasion, after he had greeted my father and me at the terminal gate, and as they walked ahead of me towards the terminal, a man with a five- or six-year-old son stopped me.

He asked me, "Is that Captain Eddie Rickenbacker?", and after I told him it was, he asked, "Do you think he would mind my introducing my son to him?". I said I knew for sure that Captain Eddie would not mind at all.

When the introduction was over, I heard him say, "Captain Eddie, when your plane was down (his plane had crashed in the Pacific Ocean), we violated standing orders for several nights by leaving on the searchlights on our small island in hopes that you would see them."

Several years later Captain Eddie called my father from his apartment on Park Avenue in New York City and asked him if he could find a ranch for him to buy somewhere in Texas. My father called his long-time friend who was the Sheriff of Kerr County (Kerrville) and told him about Captain Eddie's need.

A couple of days later the Sheriff called my father back and told him that there was a ranch exactly like what Captain Eddie wanted. My father then called Captain Eddie who said, "All right Charlie, tell them I am sending the money today." He bought the ranch without ever seeing it and only on the word of my father.

That was in the day when a man's word was his bond, and it taught me that I should live to be like these three men whose integrity was above question. For years, even after Captain Eddie had sold his ranch, I could see the wrought iron gate on the San Antonio highway with the big R's scrolled across its top. This served as a reminder of these men of integrity.

When Captain Eddie heard of my father's death, he wrote me a very kind letter of condolence. That letter, an autographed picture, and his biography are among my most prized possessions. I have known many people more famous than Captain Eddie, but I have never known a more honorable man.

Let me recommend that you read "Rickenbacker", his biography. He was America's first World War I air ace, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, founder and owner of the Indianapolis Speedway, founder and Chairman of the Board of Eastern Air Lines, a great American who loved his God, his family, and his country.

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